Hot, Hot, Hot Melbourne

This week Melbourne is hot! And not just in the sexy way, either.

Despite what the news broadcasters around here would like people to think, Melbourne being hot in the middle of summer is not such a surprising thing. But like a gambler who sees three cherries on his machine, the rest of the week forecasted at being in the 40s is causing quite a stir.

Melbourne to Perth to Darwin, when your visiting Australia and it's this hot, there are things you need to remember:

1. Fluids. This one may seem obvious, but it's still amazing how many people manage to get dehydrated. You should be drinking at least 1.5 litres of water on a regular day - more if you are overweight and/or if it's hot outside. Pay attention to the people you're travelling with, too.

2. Sunscreen. People don't joke about Australia being eight miles from the sun for nothing. Wear your sunscreen and pay attention to the time rating on it. Reapply. Also wear a hat.

3. No fires! This is especially important in Australia. If you're not local, you could miss all the adverts about fire safety. They are there for a reason. Major bushfires can start from the tiniest spark, and Australians know this all too well. Pay attention to fire bans and warnings. They can save your life as well as the lives of thousands of other people.

Just remember to keep cool. There are plenty of pubs to stop in at where you can commiserate with the locals about the 'bloody heat' and have a pint.


So... Tired...

I have been in places where the temperatures got hot – really hot – but I swear, the Australian sun heat has a distinct quality to it that melts your brain in ways it’s never been melted before.

What was meant to be a day trip turned into in overnight trip (which is part of the reason I am, yet again, behind with... everything) and Mr. JM and I arrived back home this afternoon. With a few hot days with little relief from the heat during the night followed by a long trip to northern Victoria (dust and heat – yum), when the work ran late we decided it would be best to stay overnight.

There is absolutely no use driving when you’re totally zapped for energy. That sort of thing leads to accidents. Of course, while we were staying locally, one of the site workers wanted to take us out for dinner. The meal was delicious, the conversation fun...

...but by the time we got back to our motel room, it was a quick shower to get off as much road grime as possible and then to sleep, relishing the room’s air conditioning. (We don’t have air conditioning in our flat. When it gets hot, I run away to the library.)

So yes, it was then up (mostly) bright and early to make another work stop and then head back home.

My poor husband felt absolutely no sympathy for me as he showered quickly and went in to work (about twenty to thirty minutes drive away) while I took a long cool bath and then pretty much just conked out while trying to finish a review book in bed.

None of which is even remotely interesting to anyone else, but my mind is still trying to reconstruct itself so I can’t think of anything more interesting to type about at the moment...


Dylan Moran on Australia

This is starting to turn into a video blog, but there are so many great videos out there.

If you haven't heard of Dylan Moran (or Black Books) before, I highly recommend you go searching on YouTube. He's hilarious.

With the recent hot days around Melbourne (even though it's back to being cold today), I remembered this clip from Dylan's comedy show here in Melbourne with him talking about Australia. It's excellent. Enjoy.


Australians are Tough Bastards

*NSFW because of language

*Quick Lesson: 'Bastard' in Australia can be anything from an insult to a term of endearment based on the tone of voice you use and the way you say it. I'm 'saying' it in a good way.

*You shouldn't watch this video if you are afraid of snakes or get ill at the sight of blood.

The ‘I Love You’ Experiment

A few weeks ago I read a thread on a forum I’ve never been to before (and can’t remember, unfortunately...) that got me thinking about how I perceive the world. I like to think of myself as a positive person, but thinking you are something and actually being it are two different things.

In an attempt to one, catch myself at thinking negatively towards other people and two, replace negative thinking with positive thinking, I decided to do an experiment. For a few days, instead of just letting negative thoughts just go, I would stop the thoughts when I caught them and replace them with, “I love you, too.”

The ‘experiment’ seemed more like a funny little game at first, but it soon became more serious. It wasn’t long before I realised just how often I had negative thoughts towards other people. Not only that; I realised just how addicting negative thinking is.

I was soon put to the test when Mr. JM and I were standing on the side of the bike path (there was no room to get off it completely) and two bike riders came by. One made a snarky comment about getting off the path. I wanted to say something not so nice back, but I kept my mouth shut and thought, “I love you, too.”

It was hard to get past, that one negative incident. I kept going back to it. But every time I started thinking about the incident or the woman negatively, I just cut the line of thought and put in, “I love you, too.”

After a few days of this, I started feeling less stress and tense. Nothing miraculous, but I felt noticeably better. Relaxed, even.

I challenge you to try it out. You don’t have to say ‘I love you’ out loud – you don’t have to say anything at all. Just whenever you catch yourself having a snarky thought about someone, think, “I love him/her too.” It can get quite interesting if you let it.


The New Australian... Is Thankful

*For the January edition of the Mornington Peninsula papers.

Today a wonderful thing happened.

I walked into a radiology centre and got an ultrasound of my wrist done. My doctor had sent me there because he suspected the wrist pain I have been experiencing is caused by a cyst. I showed my Medicare card to the woman at Reception, wrote down a few of my personal details and sat down. I was treated kindly and in a professional manner by everyone. The ultrasound technician explained to me everything I wanted to know in a thoughtful manner. I stopped back at Reception and they told me my results would be sent to my doctor.

Then I walked out.

You’re probably wondering by now why this experience is so special to me. Why is an ultrasound appointment so wonderful? The special part is this: I don’t have medical insurance. I’m not well off financially. I also didn’t pay for the ultrasound.

What is probably just another everyday thing to your average Australian still leaves me feeling gobsmacked and beaming with joy even after over two years. The fact that I am in no way insured and yet I can still get care? And wonderful care at that? Yes, ‘gobsmacked’ pretty much covers it.

But it gets better.

I then drove over to the Family Planning Clinic during their drop-in hours and had a chat about some other issues with a nurse. She suggested a proper appointment so as to allow adequate time to really get to the heart of the issues.

Was I charged a consultation fee? No. Not a single cent.

This might not be a surprising or exciting occurrence to Australians, but to me, it’s like I’ve discovered I am going to live again.

I grew up knowing about insurance from an early age. When my father had a job without much insurance coverage, things were rough and ‘tough it out’ became the common anthem. When he had a job with good insurance cover, things were great.

I remember witnessing my mother get the news that my father’s new job would cover dental. She nearly danced around the kitchen. We had never been able to afford dental insurance on our own and it had been years since he’d had a job that covered it.

But having insurance didn’t always mean much.

I grew up being afraid to get sick. I always felt guilty for needing to go to the doctor because I knew even then that we couldn’t’ afford another medical bill – even if it was just co-pay. And that was if I even got to go to the doctor at all. I never could understand how we could pay for medical insurance each month and yet we still had to pay medical bills.

I went through severe flu, week long ear infections and even kidney stones with no modern medical assistance whatsoever – events which still make me feel emotional today – all because we couldn’t afford the help of a doctor. I have been here over two years and I’m still paying off medical bills from the States because, nearly six months after an emergency room visit, my former insurance company decided it didn’t cover me for that after all.

It is with those events in mind that I almost get teary-eyed with the sense of security I have knowing that even when we’re having a tight fortnight financially, I am still able to see my GP when I need to. Yes, certain things do cost money here, but I am able to get care when I need it.

Believe it or not, there is even more.

For the first time in my life, I went to doctors and they truly talked to me like a human being. I wasn’t made to feel like an idiot, a number, or a potential customer of the latest pharmaceutical ‘wonder’. They had time for my questions and genuinely eased my concerns. They were also hesitant to prescribe medication, more often than not recommending further study or natural treatments.

I could go on about my personal experiences about insurance and its failings, but I would rather recommend the film Sicko by Michael Moore. Think what you will of him, but he compares medical systems around the world and will introduce you to many victims of the US insurance/medical system – including the poor treatment of the heroes from the September 11th disaster. I personally vouch for the authenticity of the experiences of people in the documentary.

My husband was talking to friends the other day and said something I think sums it up well: “For all its failings, at least you know you can get decent care in Australia.”

For that, I am truly thankful.

Until next time...


6000 Minutes

I think I might be slightly insane.

A friend of mine who is in the weight loss wagon with me has her 'minutes of exercise' in her sidebar, and I thought, "What a great idea!"

Only - and this is where the possible insanity comes in - I've decided to set a minutes goal for 2009. 6000 minutes. Which means, at minimum, I need to exercise about 17 minutes every day. Longer if I want to take a day off - which I will once in a while.

Crazy? Possibly. What's even better is that it's January 7th and I've done only 25 minutes of exercise (including the 20 minutes I just did).

So here you have it:

I'm actually quite excited about this. I'll be keeping track of time, kilometres run and calories (I haven't adjusted to kilojules yet) in the sidebar here as well as on my blog Finally Getting Fit. I'm hoping to get to at least 200 km run, but I'm not going to make yet another ticker for that as well.

Here's to being a spunky and sexy Aussie shiela.


The Great 2008

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
Participated on a writer's conference panel. Went to a naturopath. Made my health a top priority. Applied for a job in Australia.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don’t really make them... I just try to make every year better than the last.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My lovely friend Jenera.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?
I didn’t leave the country.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
More money... A house. A dog. Good health. Weight loss.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
May 5 – First wedding anniversary

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Hm. Probably being asked to be a speaker on Conflux panels.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I don’t consider it a massive failure, but I didn’t get the aforementioned job. I do consider the fact that 2008 went by so fast with me thinking about/doing work most of the time a failure.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing that I haven’t been dealing with most of my life.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Dungeon Siege II – PC Game. I know, I know, but it was more than just a game for me. I don’t really care to explain it all, though.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My husband, as always, puts up with a lot. Not to be ego-driven, but I reckon mine did on occasion as well. I took some big steps in 2008.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Just the way of the world – prejudice, blind hatred, intentional ignorance, close-mindedness...

14. Where did most of your money go?
Paying bills, as always.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The prospect of getting a house, a dog, starting a family, etc.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
When I Ruled the World - Coldplay

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?
1. A bit sadder because of the lessons I’ve had to learn, a lot just in this past month. 2. The same. 3. A tiny bit richer, as we’ve started and stuck to a savings plan.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Relaxing. Enjoying life. Doing things that make me happy.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
At home with my husband.

21. Who did you meet for the first time?

22. Did you fall in love in 2008?
Yes. With Nyssa. Kidding. No, I didn’t, but I stayed in love and I think that’s important.

23. What was your favourite TV program?
Two and a Half Men or NCIS during the first half of the year... I kind of stopped watching television again.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Hate? No. Dislike? Yes.

25. What was the best book you read?
Of the whole year? Eon by Greg Bear

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Pete Murray

27. What was your favourite film of this year?
Wall E

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was another year older and I had a very quiet birthday

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Paying off one (or all) of my student loans, winning the lottery

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

31. What kept you sane?
Writing, taking time to relax

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Entirely too many of them, as far as I’m concerned.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
It’s way too easy to get caught up in work and paying bills, but it’s not as satisfying as taking time to live.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
And so it goes, and so it goes...