Twice in three weeks, I’ve had the chance to take Friday off (one was sick leave, today is my one day off a month, which I’ve wholeheartedly earnt with extra hours worked!)
I plan to get the ‘pink slip’ for my scooter sorted, so that I can get it third party insured and registered. It blows me away that once a year a 4 year old scooter needs inspection. I suppose that’s why NSW (the state I live in) has so many new vehicles in comparison to states of Australia with less rigorous inspection periods. Consume, consume, consume!!
Oh, but it’s raining. Like most days in the past fortnight. I’m not sure I’ve shared with bloggers my utter dislike of rain. If I was God for a day, I’d make it always rain from midnight to 5am. We could all plan around it!
Then this afternoon, I plan to meet my mother, a teacher who always gets a half day Friday thanks to it being the start of the Sabbath at her Muslim school, and she’ll escort me to my suburban tax accountant to do this year’s tax. Last year, I found a local accountant, and the service was woeful. Given my finances continue to get more complicated, being a landlord, earning more etc, I think sticking to a former accountant who seemed knowledgeable, helpful and did face to face tax, is a better bet. Yes, I used to DIY my taxes, but now I just get everything prepped and meet the accountant. There’s so much tax law I don’t understand, and given it changes annually, it’s good to have someone to nut it through with.
And should there be idle time around both of these, I shall read… thanks to whomever recently read and reviewed ‘The Girl you Left Behind’ I already love it, and love that it’s a weighty tome of WWI and France! Already got in a chapter or three before getting out of bed to take the BF to work. (Such a great GF right? To ensure he gets to work dry? Not half as sweet as he was, to come at 10pm to my parents house (a good 30mins from our home) to pick me up last night, after having a reunion dinner. The youngest of my two brothers returned from South America yesterday afternoon, after 9 months away! Should you want to know about his navel gazing in the last month or two, here’s his blog: Not Finding Myself).
In the last little while, there’s been a lot of advertising for Kmart and BigW (both the same sorts of stores, essentially lower priced department stores). One of KMart’s slogans is ‘We make low prices irresistible’ – and on the surface, most people think that sounds great. Who wouldn’t want to ‘get more for less’ or ‘make your dollar go further’.
And I do have a set of measuring cups ($2) and a double adapter ($3) and a powerboard ($15) from Kmart. (Can you tell I’ve been doing my house inventory?) It’s hard to buy a double adapter elsewhere, cause $3 is small change.
Recently, the cost has been weighing on my mind. How can something be THAT cheap? How is it being made, to make it that cheap? Will buying something more expensive be getting better quality, or just the same thing, produced in the same way, but overpriced .
It’s all very well to speak about buying ‘quality’ What is quality in a double adapter or a power board? They are all plastics and electronics. How do I know one is of a better quality than others? Am I buying a name brand, more than ethical production or safe production, or longevity? And with electrical items, I’m not confident that ‘second hand’ is better. I’m not even sure many thrift shops would be interested (or willing) to sell these items for fear of the repercussions should they not be electrically safe. Or, I could ask for these items on freecycle – but the time waiting for a reply, and picking them up – is that worth it, when for $3, I could just have the double adapter NOW.
With measuring cups, sure I can buy metal ones (remember the Bradley Cooper lookalike?) I drafted this post long before I went to Vietnam, and bought metal cup measures, still made in China, that still get spots of rust after a run in the dishwasher.
I have been enjoying browsing and buying at op shops (known as thrift shops elsewhere), but I also get annoyed when they have signs of wear – something fraying a little, a stain I didn’t notice. It’s almost like there’s no perfect option (even new items can end up shop soiled!)
It’s incredibly difficult to work out value, from price, and the ethics of production. How do you reconcile these dramas?
Today marks a week in my new role with the longer commute, which I introduced in this post. I thought I would touch base on how it’s all going.
In the five day week, I worked 4 days from my new office in Hornsby, and one whole day at my previous office in Chatswood (due to some meetings). On the Monday, I started at my former office, and then packed up the car with my computer and moved.
Firstly, let’s talk about the cost of commuting. When the company ended our use of company cars to travel to and from home, I bought an annual ticket from the City to Chatswood, which cost $1,400 (thankfully I didn’t have to pay upfront, but can get it deducted from my pay weekly). The journey is $4.60 one way usually. The trip from Central to Hornsby is $5.20. Interestingly, buying the Chatswood to Hornsby portion? $4.60. So I need to trade in my annual quick smart, so I stop essentially paying double for my travel! Plus, the daily cash handover for a ticket slows down my commute.
And for the weather report – it’s been rainy, off and on, all week :s Yeah, so an interesting week to transition!
Overall, the team seems enthusiastic – most of them were either dying for work, or dying to move further North. It took me no time to settle into the new (much smaller) desk. One of my team returns from a holiday on Monday, and that will mean the one extra person in our area will be gone. I look forward to having all my ‘people’ around me, and not other dramas adding to the chats!!
As to essentially doubling my workload – well, yikes! My role previously hasn’t been handed over to someone. I also have 5 staff to lead and support in a role that didn’t previously exist (they essentially carved up the workload in Chatswood, sent some of it to Hornsby, and gave each office 5 people to work on what 7 people were doing before. Logically, that should mean we have more people doing the same work, however, it’s not without hiccups.
The statistics I was tracking in my prior role, well, they’ve seen a recent upswing. The rainy weather certainly doesn’t help our cause, but it’s frustrating to know numbers were looking good before my move. It has nothing to do with me, but I always take extreme ownership of things I’m responsible for. Furthermore, as a business, we’re not performing well in this area, so there’s been a bit of a crisis meeting called, and again, I can’t help but feel defeated that all our recent measures to improve performance in our area really aren’t paying sustained dividends.
As to life outside work? It doesn’t really exist! I went straight from work to the SES on Tuesday. Every other day, I came home, and got into bed around 8.30pm to read and fall asleep. There’s been no runs/jogging or similar, and that’s not great. But my walk from the station in Hornsby to my office is hilly, and longer than my previous station to work walk, so that’s got to be good for me, I’m hoping!! But my junk food intake has also been creeping, so I need to work harder to either exercising, or eating healthier.
Next week, I plan to implement the three Ps – for myself, and perhaps my team. Productivity, positivity and p… I’m working on the third 😉 Suggestions?
So, just to take a break from all the holiday talk – though there is more I’d like to post, and I should also confess to purchasing more flights and accommodation for a trip to New Caledonia with the BF in the first week of November… Interestingly, all good posts need photos, right – these have nothing to do with the content of the post however! Enjoy!
My job role and job location will change on Monday (18 August). I will go from working in Chatswood, to working in Hornsby, and commuting by train from my home in the inner city suburbs of Sydney.
Am I pleased with this change?
However, more or less since February, I’ve been acting in a higher role. The first 6 weeks, I blogged about here, here and here. Those posts share how I struggled with the new challenges of managing staff, and with some incredibly thoughtful readers and commenters, I was able to make the most of what at the time I thought would a short term assignment. That role managed staff, and carried the maintenance portfolio of the whole ‘north’.
However a few weeks later, I was asked to move into a role that previously had not existed. This position was more or less a placeholder, and a slow move to the new structure and management hierarchy. It was a great opportunity, and again, for the first few weeks, I had no idea what the expectations of me were. I was taking on ‘half’ of someone else’s workload, but for a long while, we both carried it all. I put a stop to that, and drew an arbitrary and sensible line in what each of us would call ‘ours’. That helped us from the torrent of CC’ed emails back and forth!!
So, from the second week of April, until the end of this week, I’ve come to enjoy this role as a senior engineer.
From Monday 18 August, I move into a newly created role, that mimics what I did in February, for a smaller geographical area – just half of the ‘north’. With it, I will have staff, which the senior engineer role did not have (though I ended up working very closely with many staff, though not actually being their boss – which comes with countless dramas!). I could have said no to this temporary assignment further North, but would have returned to my normal rank and file role as an engineer. Since I moved to being a senior engineer, my position was backfilled, so it would have been awkward to say the least!
For an unknown but finite duration of time, I will continue to ‘act’ in the role in Hornsby. At some stage, the positions will be formally advertised and all eligible candidates will apply. I will NOT apply for any of the (up to) three management roles in Hornsby. This isn’t some blog secret – it’s something I’ve made clear. There’s no money that would encourage me to a daily commute of approximately 2 hours by train and 1 hour walking. Quite simply, instead of being paid for a ‘4o hour week’, I’m being paid for a ’65 hour week’ when I factor in my commute and that’s before we enter into staying back late here and there, or weekend or evening phone calls, due to the nature of the role.
Interestingly, (up to) three management roles will be advertised both at my current office, and at an office a short scooter ride, or easy run/walk from my home. And whilst trying to remain somewhat anonymous about my company, most roles I have some experience in to make me eligible. I am more than happy to put my hat into the ring, and should I not be the most meritorious candidate, to slip back into being a ‘rank and file’ staff member. At least at that juncture, the public perception will be that I wasn’t successful at the interview. Currently, everything has been chess moves, rather than a formal requirement process.
We’re not looking forward to the move – that is the BF and me, nor my parents. They all know the commute takes a lot out of you, and even the past few weeks have seen me be a little ‘zombie’ like. The plan is to pay for a cleaner (who shall also iron my work attire), and to batch cook and freeze meals as much as possible. The cooking will be a team effort, between myself, mum and the BF! Other than that, I look forward to lots of time to read on the train – I’m steaming through my bible reading, and should be finished within a month. Needless to say, my blogging might move to a trickle… Though I should have a stack of time to read all your blogs!! So everyone else, keep me entertained!
This is a L-O-N-G post but I wanted to get everything down in one place. Prepare a cuppa!
The key reason many of us went on this tour to Japan was due to our involvement with the State Emergency Service in our state of New South Wales. As volunteers, we help with storm and flood victims, as well as crowd control as the need arises. Whilst the vast majority of our trip to Japan was site seeing, there were a number of occasions we turned to our (voluntary) work and interests.
Our first exposure to disasters in Japan was through our Sister City program, between Bankstown council and Suita City outside of Osaka in Japan. This city council arranged for two days of talks and activities, which included visiting a local fire and paramedic station, travelling to Kobe to see the museum there (more later) and many talks and slides from a number of different organisations involved with disaster response. By and large, Japan has a very formal and paid work force involved with disaster assistance. That being said, there’s also a very large again population that seem engaged in a number of voluntary capacities in day to day life (guides at sites and museums) as well as in times of crisis.
In Kobe, where there was an earthquake in 1995 (known as the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake) there is the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution. This modern glass water front building offers a number of museum exhibits as well as auditoriums that show the effects of the 1995 earthquake, with footage taken from about the city. It was the first time I felt unsettled and chose to look at the ground than continue to see the images of damaged buildings. I have a strong interest in human disasters (such as the Holocaust) and this is the first time I remember being so moved by something that I can no longer watch. There was no blood or gore, but my empathy meter was on overdrive, further hindered by not being able to rationalise this sort of event. It’s natural, and it could and does happen regularly in Japan – where I was. There’s no one to blame – there’s only preparations that can be made.
The Kobe earthquake, as I know it better, marks as a great learning point for Japan. Our guide was clearly impacted by the earthquake, and outlined a number of learnings that came away from it. “Back then” there was very little in the way of formal reimbursement for the loses suffered, now Japan offers up to 3 million yen per person. After such an event, people are moved in to temporary housing (which we got to briefly see ‘up north’). In Kobe, people were assigned homes based on a lottery system, however the guide says that people have learnt that this breaks down existing communities. He also mentioned that the average stay is 6 months, but the longest stay was 5 years! Can you imagine that? And that the temporary housing took 3 months to establish. So where did people take refuge until then?
Interestingly to me, the whole disaster response movement is centered around schools. When I thought about it, it seemed logical! They are managed by the same government bodies that assist with disasters (the prefecture level, I think, but in Australia, it’d be the state, which also works nicely). We learnt from our talks at Suita City Hall that schools contain locked sheds full of materials suitable for search and rescue, as well as temporary needs. So in the event of an earthquake, people head to school halls, and came out in school halls. Only the Japanese could make this seem so orderly – they still take off their shoes before entering their patch of ground for sleeping!
How did Kobe rebuild? In many cases, apartment blocks attempt to rebuild a 7 storey building into 10 storeys, to help finance the build by selling to more people. Obviously this strategy works in earthquake prone areas, but in Takata (north of Fukushima prefecture) the issues with flooding and tsunamis don’t make the solutions as simple. Nonetheless, this rebuilding takes time, and people do move away. As a result, shops suffer and close too.
What to do in an earthquake? We learnt that after a certain year (maybe 1991?) all buildings have been made to earthquake standards, including glass that doesn’t shatter as dangerously. The advice is to move above the third storey of concrete buildings that are strong enough. We also saw signage used to denote a ‘safe place’ to evacuate to in the event of an earthquake or tsunami. Japan is flush with underground shopping malls and countless subways lines (private and publicly owned), which of course are at serious risk of tsunami flooding. Actually we went in a simulated earthquake ‘lift’ (elevator) which pretended to be in a shopping centre with access to the basement floors.
Whilst in Kobe, we watched a video on the impacts of the 2011 tsunami, and saw the township we would visit later in the trip (though at the time I didn’t know this!). My notes immediately after the video presentation, showing three years since the tsunami, had me wondering if it was even ‘worth’ rebuilding. After three years, most things were just flattened, with the debris all cleared, and I know now, a great many building flattened, despite surviving.
I also learnt about liquification, which happens as part of an earthquake, where underground water and sand based soils mix, and water often rises to the surface. If homes and buildings don’t have sufficiently deep foundations or ‘stilts’ they risk being destroyed by the earth’s movements. There’s some great (kid friendly) examples of how this happens in most of the museums we went to!
It seems the greatest level of education about natural disasters is aimed at children, with most museums we went to (one in Kobe, one in Kyoto and one in Tokyo) having a strong school based focus. To think there’s a mascot for the tsunami centre in Kyoto! Seriously – only in Japan!
After every earthquake, the government is obliged within three minutes to release a tsunami warning, which includes the suspected ‘height’ of the wave. In the case of the tsunami in 2011, the models didn’t accommodate magnitude 8 or 9 earthquakes, and therefore predictions were woefully low. As an engineer, I didn’t buy into the ‘they should have known’ or ‘they should have told us’. As I discussed with S&A (my mates on the trip), firstly magnitude is a logarithmic scale – it gets bigger fast! I can totally see which ever bean counters ignoring the possibility of the wave heights with a high magnitude quake being of a level so devastating they couldn’t imagine. If someone told you a 15m wave was coming, when in recorded history there’d never been a wave this high, then I can imagine the public’s response could have been even more lacklustre. In the 2011 case, the initial reports were for a 3m wave, later upgraded to 6m, in any case, there was a 5m sea wall, so many people felt that the impacts of the tsunami would be minimal. It goes without saying the level of devastation that was caused when the true wave came.
Whilst in Suita City, we were given a glossy 45 page A4 booklet all about disaster preparation, in English. Whilst some of the tour ‘wished there was more said and done about natural disasters for tourists’, I thought it was amazing to have this (evidently) costly publication in English, as undoubtedly it’d be in other languages. Japan, unlike much of the world I’ve travelled to, doesn’t often ‘worry’ about languages of others. If anything, there’s sometimes Korean, Chinese or English, but even still, many products don’t feel the need to carry any translations (I suppose just like Australia!).
In the event of a natural disaster, there’s a fantastic voicemail system, where you can use a pay phone to leave a message attached to your landline phone. That way, other people can ring the number and check if other people from ‘home’ have left a message. I’ve never heard of a system like this, and it just BLEW me away to have this organised. In Tokyo, we saw a short animation of a disaster, and saw the kids and the parents using this system too! Even more surprisingly was in a super technical nation, the public pay phone lines are given priority coverage after a disaster. And yep, we saw payphones all over – much more so than in Australia now.
In the course of our travels, I noticed little preparedness measures taken. Exit signage was often on the floor, or knee height in the wall – made sense to me, as you often evacuate on your knees if there’s smoke. Makes the ceiling and doorway mounted ones in Australia seem nonsensical (though these also existed in parts of Japan). Every hotel room we stayed in had a torch mounted to the wall. Not once did I see a torch missing – so tourists are honest (or torches values are decreasing in the smart phone era?)
All the museums covered the need for three days (72 hours) supply of food and water. In Tokyo, there was a collection of different ‘packs’ available around the world. The smartest (in my opinion) formed the stuffing of a teddy bear (which may have also had backpack straps). As a souvenir of our time in Suita City, we were given a high nutrition food bar (about one and a half times the size of a matchbox?) and a wind up torch – almost perfect for our purpose.
I think I’ve reached my saturation point for this post – which isn’t to say I won’t randomly realise things I’ve forgotten I wanted to document. But here it is for now…
Does your city have an evacuation plan? What makes you ready for a disaster?
So what did I buy in Japan? Aside from four tops/shirts for a number of multinational companies (Zara, Uni Qlo, H&M), I also bought a belt from Old Navy. That’s all par for the course – I have the time and the funds when on holidays to buy clothing.
However, I also bought
Two packets of the same size of oragami paper – all in blue tones. I plan to frame some.
A fabric hand towel
An offcut of fabric, and 1m of a fabric I loved – I’m considering using them between the glass and the ‘wood’ of the coffee table.
Sheets of stickers of Japanese temples, and paper shapes, to add to my travel journal (upcoming post)
I also spent countless money on snacks! My my my, did I try everything and then some. I feel very unhealthy now! I enjoyed cream/custard filled puffs (three times), small pancakes packages with maple jelly and butter, caramel pop corn, pizza flavoured chips (crisps for Laura ;), strawberry yoghurt drink, little brownie bites, pineapple ring icecream, mango ice block (twice!), alcoholic lemon flavoured icey drink… There was plenty more, I assure you… these are what I remember! That’s right – rice balls (really triangular shaped), though the last one I had, well I was pretty sure it was my LAST one, I got a little over them.
I also brought home a sake bottle, as the glass was blue! It’s now sharing the trolley with a Bombay Sapphire mini bottle. Classy huh?
What’s your favourite of my souvenirs? Is there something you ‘always’ collect as a souvenir when travelling?
Sorry all if you haven’t been able to use my site lately – some hiccups on a few things lately. If you ever have the time and inclination, please email me at livetolist AT gmail.com and I’ll get right onto it!
Another email rebadged as a post… this is my first evening with my home stay family – a mum and dad, and a son and daughter, both around 18 years old
So after another hot and sweaty day we went to the baths. Totally get nuddy baths! Insane! Obviously girls and boys are seperate but it’s in a mall with bowling, restaurants, 100yen shop. There’s inside baths and open air ones. Crazy. All ages too! Bulk shampoo and conditioner impressed my zero waste heart. And little did I know this introduction would be instrumental to others on my trip, when we later went to other baths. There’s so much etiquette involved!
We went to a traditional tea ceremony during the day, bitter stuff but they give you a sweet pastry thing to have with it. You’re meant to sit with your feet under you bum but we all struggled!! After that three if us got to wear the kimono which was amusing cause none of us were the correct dimensions!! My host sister wears a kimono as a uniform at the restaurant she works at – she’s 18.
After my host family picking me up we did grocery shopping. Japan are more into milk and sweet & savory pastries than I would gave expected. Meat and most everything is packaged in tiny portions, it’s amazing. Peaches are in protective foam you sometimes get spirit bottles in and plastic wrapped. Conversely you pay for plastic bags at the grocery store but not at convenience stores?! If you say no to a plastic bag you get tape put over the bar code, even in convenience store. They are big into tidiness, the 100yen shop has a bucket on the counter for your unwanted docket. Leaving the airport, there’s a bin especially for printed baggage tags. Every vending machine is flanked by bins too!
Prices seem quite reasonable, $90 for five people to have dinner, dad had beer, then baths and some drinks after. I’d love to know what the conversion rates have been in the past!
Slept well though it was hot! I slept on a futon mattress which is more like sleeping in a doona. Had both a fan and air con, but I notice the living room air con is on 27c!!
This morning I visited the local shrine with the mum, where you wash your left then right hand. Then you ring the bell and pray, after clapping your hands twice. You pay 5yen, which has a hole in it and there is some homophone about seeing friends through the hole. Anyhow you throw this in a slotted container before bell ringing.
Then we came home to b’fast. There was a salad with cabbage, one cherry tomato and a mini sausage. Then there was a fried egg. Then yoghurt with a fruit sauce an crunchy cereal with dried strawberries. Then I had the bread/pastry I chose yesterday which was maple flavoured. Then there were angel cheeks which are this soft sweet taco with whipped light cream. With iced coffee, which you buy bottled black and add cream or milk. Interestingly full fat milk is more expensive than lower fat milk. An beer is CHEAP, and you can buy single cans at the grocery store. Suita, the city we’re in outside of Osaka is where the Asahi beer is made, we walked past the factory.