Thursday, 31 May 2012

Drive by, hooting.

Yesterday was the first day in six weeks that I was allowed to drive. And I didn't go anywhere...

Six weeks, no driving, no missing it. Who'd a thought? Ironically, yesterday was also the first day I had to be at home in a long time - for FedEx pick ups and deliveries - but I was in no rush to get behind the wheel. It just struck me as curious that something that so many of us do without thinking, something that facilitates so much and is such a big part of our independence-valuing culture, could not leave a void when I was deprived of it.

I don't imagine I'll be able to keep avoiding it for too much longer though. Could you?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Attachment theory and obsolescence conspiracy at the human/technology interface 101

Amazing what a bit of cropping and overexposure can do, eh!

My iPhone died this week. Can we have a moment’s silence, please?

Thank you.

Mysteriously, it died about four weeks after my original two-year contract with my service provider expired. While I still continue on the plan, of course I am not entitled to a free replacement phone now. How do obsolescence conspiracy theories start exactly?

I hadn’t backed up my phone to iTunes because I run a PC laptop and I just didn’t want to install it. Ergo, I was going to lose all my contacts. Oh, how I used to shake my head in bewilderment at those people who didn’t keep a copy of their contacts somewhere safe and then lost everything when they lost their phone. And here I am. There. At least I had only just downloaded all my recent photos.

As usual in times of adversity, my pragmatic side took over. I don’t have a lot of random contacts that I desperately need to get hold of once in a blue moon and have no other way of contacting. I have my peeps and I can let them all know via email or Facey that I’ve been a numbskull and can they please text me so I get their number again. (Please don’t forget to include your name in the text, ahem!) So, enter the resident tech head in my life, my awesome mate Phil, to the rescue if at all possible, yet again. After steeling ourselves (and finally giving in and installing iTunes on the PC) hitting the restore button was a major anti-climax because: Absolutely. Nothing. Happened. “Oh, Bev, I think she’s real sick, mate,” might get entered in the Understatement of the Year Awards 2012. 

After quick trips to Telstra and Next Byte, death was confirmed at 4:24pm. So, what to do now? And this is how it happens. I had to become a tech nerd for 24 hours. Choosing a phone is a big commitment these days. Does anyone else remember when Telecom (as it was then) just handed you a new home phone and everyone had the same model? It was like living in East Germany. Anyone with anything other than the standard issue was clearly either loaded or up themselves. Now the choice is bewildering and I wasn’t going to be able to make a sound decision at 4:45pm in a state of grief in the middle of a shopping mall. My evening was to be spent—remotely, thankfully—in the company of a thousand more committed nerds than myself, all with endearing online identities such as Xcover joy, CorpSe, VixZen and bigdaz666. 

The field was rapidly narrowed down to three contenders, but the fine tuning was exhausting. Did I want to commit to another two-year plan when I am moving overseas next year? Was it cheaper to pay out an unused plan instead of buying a phone outright? (A: yessiree by a long shot!) Would I stick with Apple for a financial premium, or would I cross over to Android? If the phones came out of the box with Android 2.3 could I upgrade them to Android 4? Why the hell were the operating systems called Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich? Who was responsible for that!? Which had the longer reported battery life and would I really treat the phone like ‘MG’ and be pissed off that the battery went flat after eight solid hours of music playback at work in an area with 4G coverage? (srsly!?) Did I want a 28mm lens, or would it annoy me for closer shots? Which phone was faster? At no point did I consider, nor did the forums mention, the small-yet-important details like: this phone has really boring ring tones and, since it’s not an iPhone, if you can find a case at all you can guarantee it will only be available in slime green.

I delved into the esoteric worlds of CPU processing speeds, active lockscreens and 4G capability. I made my decision, pending some test photos in store. I purchased, and then spent another entire evening customising the damn thing, getting rid of all the rainbow-coloured theming, upgrading the software (yes, I abandoned Apple, much to Phil’s disappointment), and tracking down and installing my favourite apps. (What!? No Hipstamatic for Android users!? Somebody do something about it immediately!) I know so much about my new phone’s capabilities: more than I want and nowhere near enough in terms of what it can really do. When I think that two phones ago I couldn’t store more than 60 text messages without running out of memory I am all amazement. But I know that pretty soon I will forget all about the Bluetooth capabilities and I will be using a USB cable to download my photos like I always have, I won’t be backing my data up to the Cloud on a regular basis, I won’t have my work computer calendar and contacts synced to my phone, I probably won’t even be sending an MMS. I’ll be calling my Mum, texting my besties, making shopping lists and taking vintage-style snaps on my very modern equipment. This phone has capabilities I don’t even know I need. Worse still, by the time this phone dies of old age (or planned obsolescence, p’haps) it will seem like a dinosaur in comparison to what is then available. After a few tentative days of getting-to-know-you, however, I think I am going to be just as grief-stricken when the time comes as I was last weekend.

PS Thank you to my beloved, Charles, for pointing me in the direction of the Lightbulb Conspiracy doco (sorry about the breathy female narrator, though).

Friday, 11 May 2012

... prawns & beer

Image: And I did!, postcard, Murray Views Australia

Ah, Cairns! Beautiful one day, category 5 cyclone the next. Today, however, it is perfect: high twenties in the centigrade and a few fluffy white clouds in the sky. And it has been perfect for a few weeks now, which is just as well since the reason I have time to fuff around setting up a blog is because I am on seven weeks sick leave from work. Seven weeks!? Holy moly! Who is ever even not-normally-sick enough to accrue that much sick leave? (A: a workaholic – Ed.) What does one have to do to need seven weeks sick leave? Meh, that’s a question for another post. Anyway, today I sat in my sweet little garden in the dappled sunlight, accompanied by one of my cats, and indulged in a prawn and avocado salad and a beer for lunch. If one must be on sick leave, I guess that is probably the way to do it. I felt pretty lucky, all things considered.

The postcard image that accompanies this post was given to me by a visiting friend as a thank you card early on in my time in Cairns – I have lived here for just over eight years, but I’m originally from Adelaide, in South Australia. To me this card summed up all of my preconceptions about Cairns before I moved here, and, really, this is still how I like to view it after all this time.

The best thing about Cairns is not Cairns itself. In fact the ‘city’ is pretty ugly. As a locals’ town everyone tends to go hang out for drinks and a barbie at each others’ houses because the night life is so geared towards the backpacker trade. What’s so great about Cairns is what is just outside of Cairns – the rainforest , the reef and the savannah – as well as the misty afternoon light and the views of the surrounding hills glimpsed over the top of the Bessa block houses and the overhead power lines. Gardens also spring up overnight and try to crawl in your window and strangle you in your bed. Almost every day I have lived here I have had a moment of thinking, “That’s just so beautiful!” about some small thing, as opposed to the bigger picture. What I also like about Cairns is that if you squint your eyes up a little, so your vision goes a bit soft focus, you can still see Cairns as it was back in the 50s, 60s and 70s – that Instagrammed/Hipstamatic view of life in which the businessmen wear socks and sandals with their shorts and everyone has horn-rimmed glasses on.

I know Cairns is trying to move on, apart from the recent election of a very conservative mayor, and there are some massive issues surrounding equity and unemployment, but I do like the romance of its old school aesthetics and the sense of being at the end of the line – as a town it is ‘classic Australian dag’. (Disclaimer: I was too sick to vote in the recent local council elections. However, despite my love of all things vintage, I would not have voted for Bob Manning.)

Sometime next year I will be leaving this rather visceral earthly paradise though and moving to pretty much the exact opposite side of the planet. I intend to make the most of the end days of my life in the tropics, and from time to time we can give Cairns a big fat ‘cheers’ through a post and forget about the mould and the rain and the small town mentality it can sometimes have. I’d also like to cheers the many wonderful people I have met in Cairns. A large number of them have now moved on and my turn is coming, but I know what we would all be doing ... if you were here.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Oh, get on with it, already!

Cancer Horoscope for April 2012
By Susan Miller

" ... Look into building a website or blog, or changing the one you have. This is the month! The new moon that will appear on April 21 is truly special. ... "

Okay, okay, even the astrologers are nagging now, it's time to stop thinking and talking about it and just do it, already! There. Was that really so hard?

I love to write, I do it all diddly-day long, and when I'm not writing I'm reading other people's writing and tweaking it a little, or sometimes a lot. Anyway, I love words, you get the drift, but I haven't made the time to write for me until now. There are some big changes coming up in my life. In fact, they started a while ago, but they are really gearing up now. They are not all going to be easy, but that just makes it more interesting. I'm going to look for the good in it all, and you have permission to kick my butt if I don't. Deal?