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Why Do I Do This To Myself?

I've just finished doing my weekly job search. Which is depressing and sucks rocks through a straw.

It is also about 60% more complicated than it actually has to be, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I grew up in a dysfunctional family, which means I still (even after twenty years safely away from the lot of 'em) feel the ingrained need to justify my every action, in order to ensure I don't wind up getting squashed by people and/or institutions which have power over me. (If I do not Document Everything and Justify Everything, I will inevitably wind up In The Wrong. Yes, I know this is fscked up. You don't need to tell me). In terms of job search, this translates to me carefully noting down the following:

* What my search terms were on Seek.com.au each week.
* How many jobs were on offer
* Relevant details from each of those job ads, complete with highlighting various things, such as hours of work offered, skills/experience/education required, due dates for applications, conditions and so forth.
* Which jobs I applied for and with which employers
* How I applied for them.

Okay, so far, so neurotic. Reasonable justification of choices achieved. Now this is the rest of what I do:

* Keep another record of every single job offered by Employer, Job description and date.
* Keep track of whether I received any response to the job applications I sent out, and what that response was.
* Keep statistics on the proportion of my job applications I receive responses to.
* Collate and keep statistics on the amount and type of experience employers are asking for.
* Collate and keep statistics on the types of qualifications, clearances, and personal qualities employers are asking for.
* Collate and keep statistics on whether the work being offered is permanent or temporary, and how many hours are being offered.
* Collate and keep statistics on the kinds of software employers are asking for experience with.

Part of the reason I do all of this is because my brain says "maybe there's some patterns in here we could pull out if we just had the stats; maybe if we just assembled enough information we could craft the Perfect Application and get ourselves a job!". It also says "ooh, numbers cool!" and "I like playing with data", not to mention "hey, let's hyper-focus on this useless aspect of things in order to try to convince ourselves all this pointless effort could maybe, possibly, have a purpose other than wasting our time in futile hoop-jumping".

Which is why looking for work, for me, occupies the better part of about four to five hours every Sunday. I keep records of all of this. They are updated religiously. Who knows? Maybe someday, someone will be demanding that I justify my choices in the same old way my family used to (and the way my bully of a boss in the agency responsible for administering our social security system here in Australia used to...) and I will be able to pull out five or more years of records explaining each and every single damn choice I've made all the way along my job search history, and why I made those choices.

In the mean time, I'm starting to build up a pretty good picture of what employers in Perth, Western Australia are looking for with regards to part-time administrative and office support workers. (Email me if you want the full autism-spectrum inspired brain dump).

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/109480.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: irritated irritated
Weekly Update 29 JUL 2017

Gearing up for the start of classes next week, which means this week I've been practicing getting up at 5am (mostly to find out whether I am going to be able to get up at 5am, or whether I'm going to have to shift things even earlier in the morning). Good news: I can get away with a 5am start on the mornings I have 8am classes (8am class means I need to be ready to leave the house by 7.30am). Bad news: by about October, I'm going to have to shift my wake-up time back to 4.30am, because I'm still working on extending my writing time each month, and I don't have too much to spare at present. Today I have plans to clear last semester's readings and work off my uni laptop, and make sure its battery is all charged up and ready to go, and then I'm all set to go.

So this week I'm going to get a bit political.

Ranting below the fold )

Okay, so, spleen vented. How's everyone else this week?

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Current Mood: cranky cranky
Weekly Update 15 JUL 2017

This week I had a tooth crack on me on Wednesday. This resulted in a trip down to the local government dental clinic "emergency" sessions at 8.15 in the morning on Thursday, and a third tooth extracted. I'm sitting here with a hole in my jaw which is throbbing at me, but recovering pretty much on schedule.

Gory dental details under the fold )

I feel inclined to send the dentist a thank-you card, and the hope the rest of her day's work wasn't anywhere near as frustrating.

I'm currently on a diet of soup, pasta, and other such mush until my jaw heals up enough that attempts to chew aren't interpreted as a direct assault on and by every tooth in my head. It's not actually the socket which hurts when I chew, it's the other teeth near the socket, all of which got jostled around in the process. Clenching my jaw is not likely to happen for at least another fortnight at this rate. I'm taking nurofen (ibuprofen) on a regular basis to deal with the pain (down from every four hours on Thursday to about every six hours today, I think) and hoping things will clear up soon. I'm also on a course of antibiotics (amoxicillin) to prevent any infection, so one of those three times daily, plus rinsing 4 times a day with warm salt water.

I trust I don't need to point out this is a good reason to keep up with brushing your teeth? Trust me, this stuff isn't fun.

Hopefully I'll wind up on their maintenance schedule, and I'll be able to see about things like replacements for the three teeth which have been removed so far (as well as maybe getting a bit of work done on my right-hand incisor, which is also gradually chipping away).

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Current Mood: sore sore
Update 27 MAY 2017

This week everything happened at once.

I've known for a while that I had an essay due, a rationale and reflection document due, a short story to write (1500 - 2000 words) and a rent inspection due at some point this month. This week, the uncertainty bubble surrounding the date of the inspection collapsed, and we discovered when it was going to happen: this coming Wednesday (it's due in May, Wednesday is the 31st of May, it apparently counts).

For those of you not ensnared in the morass of the Australian rental market, let me describe the joys of a rental inspection to you. Firstly, you get told the inspection is happening at some time on a given day - usually with about a week's notice. The current real estate agency are nice enough people - they narrow it down to "some time between 12pm and 5.30pm", which is positively generous. Before this happens, you need to have the property in a condition which would satisfy either your mother, or your mother-in-law (depending on who has the more rigid housekeeping standards - if neither of these qualify, pick your unfriendly local germophobe). You also need the gardens (if there are any) looking good as well - the local mowing places do a lot of good business out of people who have inspections due! So, once you have the property in pristine condition (including things like cleaning off light switches, wiping down walls and cleaning the oven) you wait for the property manager (if you're renting from a real-estate agency) or the owner (if you're renting directly) to come in and have a look over the place. Now, technically, they're not supposed to be judging you on your housekeeping standards - but we all know this is so much horse elbows, so yeah, they are. If it's a property manager, they come in and often (these days) take photos of the interior of the place, in order to prove you've left the walls where they were when you came in, and to prove the roof hasn't spontaneously fallen in or similar. This, of course, means they're usually taking photos of your goods and chattels as well. Anyway, they come in, do their walk through, make sure you haven't knocked the place down since they were last there, then breeze back out again after making a report for the owner. The whole business takes about fifteen minutes to half an hour tops, but it requires about a week's solid effort in preparation because the place needs to be pristine for them.

This happens every three months, by the way (four a year).

We had the tradesman come around to have a look at the kitchen cupboards on Friday at about 7.30 in the morning. He brought the owner with him, which I would have appreciated knowing about beforehand (while the house wasn't in "complete dog's breakfast" condition, it wasn't quite at "suitable for unknown strangers visiting" levels of cleanliness). Basically, the owner and the tradesman consulted with each other, and I suspect the outcome is going to be a replacement of at least some (if not all) of the kitchen benches. Now, when this will happen (and whether we'll be in the property when it does) is currently all up in the air - our lease expires on the 21st of July, and while I'm going to be talking to the property manager about getting another twelve months in the place nailed down, what may wind up happening is the owner might decide (in the interests of "not disrupting our lives", gods help us[1]) to give us our notice to quit at the end of this current lease, so he can get the tradies in to do things uninterrupted. Now, I don't know whether this is certain, probable or merely in the range of possibilities out there, but it's something I've added to the list of potential worries coming up.

I've mostly finished all the uni assessments - I finished off the editing of my major essay for one of my units this morning (it's been sitting there waiting to be done like an albatross around my neck for the last three or four days, but when I try to do it in the afternoon, my brain basically throws up an "Out of Spoons" error and refuses to parse the wretched thing). I just have the short story to write a first draft of (for workshopping purposes) by Tuesday. Which should be fun, right? But once I've submitted that short story (due the 1st of June) I've finished for the semester, and all I have to do after that is wait for my results.

Of course, this also means I have to go and speak to AtWork regarding Work for the Dole, since at present my university study qualifies as my Work for the Dole activity - and technically they have me on the books as needing to do Work for the Dole until about August or thereabouts. So I need to find out whether I'm going to be breaching my mutual obligation requirements if I don't immediately start doing something else (like picking up litter, sorting rags, washing bottles, or picking oakum) immediately the moment I've handed in this last assignment.

Still going on MFF, have deleted Avengers Academy from the tablet (since it wasn't going anywhere, and was crashing on a regular basis every time I tried to open it) and I'm getting very fond of Final Fantasy Record Keeper, which I've been playing for over a year now, and which hasn't crashed, glitched, or demanded money from me in all that time. Why can't there be more games like that?

[1] The logic here being that having renovations done around us would be disruptive. Which, yes, it would. But having to move out on short notice, and find another place to live in for the amount we can afford (preferably close to uni - that's the main qualifying feature of this place, by the way - it's close enough to the university that we can basically be there within 15 minutes of leaving the house) would be even more disruptive.

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Current Mood: rushed rushed
On Working For the Dole.

So, I've been unemployed for six months (according to Centrelink, anyway). Which means, lucky me, I'm due to start my "Work For The Dole Phase" of the whole glorious process of being unemployed in Australia in the 21st century.

For those not in the know, "work for the dole" was an idea conceived back in the era of John Howard, by Liberal Party policy-makers who wanted to bring back the workhouses, but who didn't fancy the idea of having to shell out money to feed, house and clothe the undeserving poor (i.e. anyone on an activity-tested Centrelink payment[1]). Basically, in order to impress on the long-term unemployed how important it is they find paying work, they're required to perform up to twenty-five hours a week of compulsory, unpaid[2] volunteer work in order to be able to continue receiving their dole payment. I suspect whoever came up with this one must have woken up in the night and hugged themselves with glee[3].

Luckily for me, I'm on a part-time activity test (mental illness, such fun). I only have to do sixteen hours a fortnight worth of whatever the current equivalent of picking oakum, washing bottles, pasting labels or sorting rags is. Normally, the requirement is for fifteen hours a week for someone my age, twenty-five for someone younger. In my case, I'm going to be transcribing old (hand-written) court records from turn-of-the-century-NSW (i.e. early 1900s). Years of translating my mother's appalling medical handwriting into something legible has finally come in useful.

Basically, this sort of thing is supposed to... well, I have no idea what it's supposed to do. Punish me for the sin of not being in employment, one presumes. I have the site induction on Thursday, I suppose I get to find out then whether I'm supposed to be wearing sackcloth and rubbing ashes into my hair to show repentance, flagellating myself with a cat-o'-nine-tails, or whether just walking around wearing a sandwich board that says "I'm SO FUCKING SORRY" will do.

Yes, I am a bit cranky about this.

I'm cranky about it, because it's a bit of deliberate humiliation on the part of a government which has an ideological agenda, and will do anything in its power to get that agenda implemented. I'm cranky about it because I'm being forced into performing unpaid labour in order to ensure wage earners are frightened into accepting lower wages and lower conditions in order to avoid being put into this situation. I'm cranky about it because the penalties for missing work, or not being able to perform whatever work I'm supposed to be doing on the day I'm supposed to be doing it, are all on me (yes, even if my erstwhile "employer" doesn't have enough work for me to be doing, or the computers are down, or the office gets hit by a meteor falling from the sky).

Oh, and I still have to keep looking for 20 jobs a month, same as before. That doesn't change, either. About the only positive thing to note about the whole mess is that since the place I'm going to be physically doing my Work for the Dole placement is the offices of my JobActive provider, I'll be able to drop off my monthly lists with a lot less carry-on.


[1] Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, and Special Benefit.
[2] If your "volunteering" is organised through your JobActive provider, you get an extra $20 per fortnight on your dole payment to cover costs incurred (transport, lunches etc). If it isn't, you don't. There's a LOT of encouragement to find your own "volunteer work".
[3] A bit of googling reveals it was the brain-child of Tony Abbott. I must remember to write him a thank-you note.

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location: At home
Current Mood: cranky cranky
Current Music: The whistle of the steam coming out of my ears
Brief Personal Update

TW: unemployment, suicidal thoughts, mental illness

So, Himself got the sack on Monday for being off sick too often (about four weeks over the course of about ten months), but more realistically he got the sack because his boss didn't want to keep employing another technical person now the boss's honeymoon is over. We are now back to the Centrelink/Job Nyetwork "Dance of the Deserving Poor", which is a variation on the Masochism Tango where you scourge yourself for the entertainment of public servants who aren't interested in watching.

I am, quite predictably, not reacting to this well. As in, I'm melting down all over the place. Have an appointment with my doctor today to get a medical certificate for the depression (which is flaring up to the point where I've spent most of the past two days defaulting to thinking very positive thoughts about going out and playing in the traffic) and I'll be hoping to be able to head back to the last Employment Services Provider I was seeing, since I got accustomed to their particular brand of useless and I figure they'd be able to dig the file out of storage.

I'd be happier, I think, if they'd just acknowledge it is literally less likely for me to get a job than it is for me to win Lotto (1 in 85 chance of winning something in lotto, if you buy a ticket; by contrast, I applied for over 100 jobs during the course of 2014 without so much as a preliminary interview resulting) and that the only reason I'm sending out the applications in the first place is because Centrelink demands it. Your tax dollars at work, making work for HR types and recruiting agencies.

I'm going to try and keep these whiny posts to a minimum, because I know people aren't really all that interested.

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Current Mood: depressed depressed
Apparently, I am Useful...

It appears one of the employment scammers I've written about is trying their tricks again. I got a whole heap of comments just today from people thanking me for putting up something warning about RLB Solution and their Hiring Coordinator, Anna Stern.

To be honest, I'm glad it's been helpful to other people - this was what I wrote the piece for in the first place. I wish it wasn't necessary (and if "Ms Stern" decides to stop attempting to exploit job seekers, that suits me just fine too), but I'm glad it helps.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/50263.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Have Another Employment Scammer: Gerosys Group

If you get a job offer purporting to be from the Gerosys Group, treat it with caution. It flies the "scam" flag good and hard.

Let's start with the basics: this mob contacted me out of the blue offering a job. I didn't contact them. One BIG red flag to begin with.

Second red flag: I have no memory of ever being contacted by this group for an interview. Generally, this is a pretty important step toward getting a job.

Third red flag: the job description offers $2600 per month for 20 - 25 hours work, recording financial payment information and processing payments. That's at least $26 per hour for what doesn't seem to be much actual effort. Or in other words, they're paying too much for the work they're asking. This means someone is trying to hook me through my greed.

Fourth red flag: These two paragraphs from their Job Description form:

"JOB ACTIVITIES
We sometimes have customers that owe us funds and pay us in financial instruments cashable only in the local area. Since we work all over the world, it is much easier for our customers to transfer money to our Assistant Clerk who are in the same area. After receiving funds Assistant Clerk must record information about transfer and report. Then send money to one of our branches.

WHY DO WE NEED ASSISTANT CLERK? WHAT DOES IT GIVE US?

Reduces % of taxes (avoiding double taxation);
Reduces expenses for offices maintenance (as Assistant Clerk is an official company's representative, so the construction and maintenance of the office is not required);
Number of clients is increased (as many customers can't make an international money transfer);
Our service is increased (as the international transfer needs about 5 days to reach our central office and then a couple of days to reach the performers branch. Consequently, it slows down our work significantly. It'd be much faster if Assistant Clerk receives the money and directs them to the appropriate department/branch. This is how we reduce terms of payments expectation and can provide a service to the customer more promptly)."


This mob purport to have a branch office in Sydney[1]. So why would they need me, living in Western Australia, to process payments in Australian currency?

Let's not forget, this whole "we need you to process payments into the appropriate currency" business is generally the mask for a scam wherein the scammers gain access to your bank account and vacuum out all the contents.

Fifth red flag: They're asking me to scan a copy of my passport, driver's license or other ID and send this in.

Can we say "identity theft", kiddies? I knew we could!

All of the above are enough to hoist the Scam flag high. The whole thing stinks of scam. The following are the little garnishes which just add grace notes to the smell.

* The person who purported to send me the letter (Alexis Poulson) doesn't appear to exist, and particularly not in Sydney, Australia. Nothing on Facebook, nothing on LinkedIn.
* The name of the "HR manager" on the employment agreement form doesn't show up in Sydney either, and it's a particularly common name.
* Their domain is registered to a Russian domain registry, rather than one in the USA (the website appears to be for a company based in Boston) or Australia (given their Australian branch office).
* There's a "news" item on the bottom of the front page of their website which links straight to the job description I quoted above, apparently soliciting new staff in Australia and Canada.
* The job, as described, needs only high school graduation level education (they actually say "high school diploma or GED", which is a very US-centric description of the whole business).
* The "Company seal" on the employment application firm lists the company as a "limited liability company" (which isn't a company description we have here - we're more likely to go with proprietary limited companies instead), and doesn't have an ABN (Australian business number - a REQUIREMENT for doing business in Australia for GST purposes). So either they're not a genuine company, or they're busy evading tax here in Australia.

I've reported them to the ACCC here in Australia, but I'd urge anyone who gets a job offer from this mob anywhere in the world to be extremely wary. As always, the marks of a genuine job offer are these:

* You go looking for them, they don't go looking for you (particularly at the lower rungs of the ladder; particularly if the unemployment rate is higher than 1%)
* A genuine job offer will come with a request for an interview first, because a genuine employer wants to keep you on in their company for a long time. They will therefore want to find out whether or not you're a "good fit" for their company in the first place.
* The wages won't be massively out of line with the industry standard for the sort of work they're asking for. If your highest educational qualification in this day and age is a high school graduation, you're looking at minimum wage work, not the sort of stuff that pays $26 per hour.
* They won't be asking you to perform duties the banking system is actually perfectly capable of doing (eg international money transfers or currency changing).

[1] 100 Walker St, North Sydney, for the interested. From google maps, it looks like an office complex. If anyone wants to visit and take a dekko at their directory, I'd be overwhelmingly interested in finding out whether they're registered on the directory.

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Current Mood: irritated irritated
Another Update

So, it's about half four in the morning, I've been awake since about ten to three, and I've just had another mini-meltdown because each time I think I've realised all the packing I have to do and how much stuff I have to fit and how little space I have to fit it into, there turns out to be another fractal level of it I've forgotten. Things like "how do I fit an entire wardrobe's worth of clothing into one suitcase"? Admittedly, it's a large suitcase. But it's still only the one suitcase, and I have to try and fit clothing which currently fills a wardrobe, a chest of drawers, and a couple of storage tubs into it.

Plus there's the whole question of "what do I do with the contents of the pantry?" I suspect most of it will have to be thrown out (because there's no way known to mankind I'm going to be able to fit all of it into the pantries of either my mother or Steve's mother) and I'm not sure how much of it can be given to various food banks, or even how to get into contact with those food banks to find out whether they take donations.

There's so much needs doing, and so little time and so few spoons for me to be doing it with.

Well, it's half five now, and I've decided to do some dishes (I want pancakes for breakfast, so I have to wash the frypan and some cutlery).

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Current Mood: stressed stressed
The State of Things 07 APR 2013

So, just a bit of an update to let everyone who's interested (and anyone who's reading this) know where we're standing at present.

* Our car has just returned from having two CV joints and the muffler replaced (courtesy of Steve's parents, who heard about the problems and offered to pay for the work to be done by the mechanic they've been using for years).
* We have to be out of our current rental accommodation by Monday 15 APR 2013 at the absolute latest. We've asked about getting the lease extended by a week, but apparently the owners have contractors coming in to do things pretty much immediately after that, so we were turned down.
* We had an application in with a real estate agent to rent a 2-bedroom flatlet in Mandurah (Silver Sands area) at $200 per week. We heard back from them regarding whether our application has been successful yesterday - it hadn't.
* On Monday (08 APR 2013), we're heading down with Steve's parents to visit some friends of theirs who have access to some storage space in Yunderup. If it looks okay, we've then got somewhere to store all our excess furniture and goods.
* On Friday (12 APR 2013), we're getting a removalist to move our gear out of our current location in Parmelia. Current destination for us is the caravan at my parents place for a week or so, and then the downstairs rooms of Steve's parents place.
* We'll have to spend at least the week from 12 APR to 22 APR 2013 staying either in my parents' caravan, or in a motel room, because Steve's folks are expecting one of their sons and their grandson to visit for that week from NSW.
* The plan at present is that Steve's folks are planning to do a bit of a tour of various friends and rellies during the winter (sort of doing the grey nomad thing, only in a bit more comfort, from what I can tell) and they'll use us as house-sitters during the meanwhile.
* We're still both on the dole. Steve's looking for work. So am I, officially (although given I can only do about three days a week at most before the stress starts getting to me, unofficially I'm pretty damn certain I really should be looking into the various hoops I'd need to jump through for Disability Support Pension to see whether I'd be able to get it).
* I've wound up withdrawing from study (again!) because while I thought at the beginning of the semester that I'd be able to cope with everything, it turns out that I'm not. I would have had a major essay due about a week from now, and I really wasn't coping with keeping up with things for that, so rather than try and fail (which the uni tends to get a bit icky about) I decided to just withdraw. My withdrawal was after the HECS census date, so I'll still be paying for this attempt at the unit. To be deadly honest, I couldn't give a monkey's. With regard to paying off HECS, it's a case of first I need a job, then I need a job which is going to be paying me more than the HECS repayment threshold for three days a week, and then I'll start worrying about the size of the debt I have to pay off.
* In the meantime, we're in the process of packing things up, handing on the excess to the Salvos or the Sammies[1], and either selling or Freecycling the stuff which is in good enough nick to get rid of. If anyone in the Perth area has a whole heap of packing boxes they want to get rid of, we're on the lookout for them, since it's pretty clear we're not going to be able to fit our entire household into the boxes we have even after thinning things out. Contact me by email (megpie71 at yahoo dot com dot au) if you're able to offer 'em.
* Either way, from about 12 APR 2013 until we have a fixed abode again, don't expect to be hearing from me - 'net access is going to be patchy at best, I suspect. I have plans to drop in to the nearest Centrelink to wherever we wind up on Monday 15th and use their self-service facilities to make my fortnightly income report (because hey, they've got them handy), as well as bringing them up to date with either our new address, or the best available postal address for us.


[1] Good Samaritan Industries - a charity group which provides a lot of jobs for the intellectually less abled in the WA region. They do a lot of work reprocessing second hand clothing.

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Current Mood: stressed stressed
From the News

Urgent call to increase the dole

ACOSS is asking the government to increase the dole (unemployment benefit) by $50 a week and to index it to wages. As someone who's on the dole at present (along with her partner), I stand by this request 100%. Here's why:

My dole payment per fortnight: $498.
My partner's dole payment per fortnight: $493
Our rent per week: $340
Our food and groceries budget per week: $100
The amount of money left over each fortnight after we pay for rent and food: $111

Out of that $111, we have to pay the electricity bill, the gas bill, the water charges, put petrol in the car (one tank of fuel costs approximately $50), pay for public transport fares, cover the costs of our internet connection, pay for our mobile phones, buy any medication we need, cover the costs of job search, and pay for any other incidental expenses which crop up (clothing, shoes, replacing household goods, car registration, car maintenance etc). Needless to say we're not doing so well, and the accumulated costs of living are nibbling away at our scanty savings all the time. We're now in a situation where one big bill is capable of cleaning us out financially.

Neither of us smokes. Neither of us drinks on more than an occasional basis (say, 1 drink every 6 - 8 months). We don't have kids, we don't have pets. Our entire recreational output is based around the internet, and the existing games and DVDs we own, because we can't afford new ones. We can't afford to go out either, so we're pretty much housebound. We go out to do the grocery shopping - that's our big excursion every week.

We've been living like this since about mid-January, and we're looking forward to living like this for at least another 3 - 6 months, because neither of us is the "ideal" employee, and as such, it takes us time to find new work. Now, the treasurer is busy saying that the government's aim is to get people back into work. Well, that's great. It would be even better if there were employers willing to employ us.

In the meantime, an extra $100 a fortnight each would help immensely with our situation. It would reduce the stress, and the constant dread of finding that next bill in the mail.

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Current Mood: stressed stressed
Back to Uni and Daft Things I've Done Recently

This semester, I've decided to pick up a couple of psychology units, because I'm interested in tacking social psychology (or indeed any psychology) onto the side of my computer science degree as a way of making things a bit more interesting. I figure the computer science will teach me the what and how when it comes to dealing with computers, while the psychology side I'm picking up in an effort to try and figure out why they've become the sort of mega-meta-tool they are now.

So I'm up to week two, attempting to recover from the massive kick in the hip pocket I've taken by purchasing my textbooks (two subjects, textbooks coming to the better part of $300, we're on the dole... oh well, I didn't need to eat anyway), and attempting to keep up with the reading. Thanks be to the gods I'm only studying part-time, since that means I have two days a week where I can pretty much devote my time to things like setting up a decent meal in the slow cooker, then spend the entire day scribbling down notes.

Today, however, I am functioning on approximately 5 hours sleep, if that. Why? Well, through an interesting concatenation of circumstances last night, I wound up browsing my way through my LiveJournal archive. It was interesting seeing where I'd been (I was also digging through old posts on fanficrants, because I can't for the life of me remember what I did there - it was over five years and two computers ago, and I've long since lost the email archives which record these things), but I got so distracted that before I knew it, it was 2am, and I realised I needed to get some sleep. I set the alarm to wake me for 7am, and I'm now drinking my first cup of coffee in months before I get back to writing notes from the textbook for one of my subjects for the next couple of hours before diving out the door to go to today's lecture and tutorial.

I think when I get home tonight, it's going to be a case of "dig out some frozen leftovers from the freezer" (the slow cooker is a godsend, because I can cook up large meals, serve up some of them, freeze the rest, and save myself from having to try and think about cooking on my Uni days), have dinner, and then collapse and sleep. Particularly since I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow at 7.30am (because that way I'll hopefully get in before my GP has had a chance to get massively behind in her schedule).

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Current Mood: tired tired
Achievements for the Week

Meds: 7/7

Another week of full compliance for the thyroid medication. I suspect at least part of the problem with taking things in conjunction with the psych meds was due to the psych meds themselves. This could prove to be interesting.

Knitting: 5/7 (but I haven't done today's allotment yet)

Current length is 90.5cm, which is about half the length of the dining table. The original plan called for casting off when it reached 2m even, but I think I'll just run it to the point where it reaches the end of the table instead, if only because the weight of the knitting is starting to get ridiculous these days.

Jobsearch: 0/8

It was a short week today (Foundation Day public holiday was on Monday) but come Tuesday I just couldn't be bothered with trying to look for work. I heard back about the job I was interviewed for - I didn't get it. Their reason was that I didn't have access to a car. Given I'm able to see the bus stop I'd've been getting off at from the front door of their office, the job I was applying for was an in-office clerical job, and the nearest post office is also clearly visible from the front door of their office (and about the same walking distance away as the bus stop) I've no idea why having access to a car was such a necessity. My guess is the lack of car is very much about "we don't want to have to mention anything which might sound discriminatory".

Other minor achievements: cooked up a melt-and-mix fruit cake (which turned out quite moist, very full of fruit), although our oven being what it is, the cake wound up scorched on the bottom and around one edge. However, I'll try out the recipe again, and see whether I can lower the temperature to the point where the cake will cook without scorching. I also made up some vegetable soup yesterday in the slow cooker.

The basic recipe consisted of three litres of vegetable liquid stock (from the pantry, one of which was low-salt, all of which were past their "best by" date), two diced onions, two finely diced cloves of garlic, four sticks of celery, four small spuds, three large-ish carrots, 1/4 of a large turnip, 1 parsnip, half a small savoy cabbage, 2 440g tins of tomatoes, a handful of green beans cut into 1.5 - 2cm lengths, a lidful of pearl barley, a lidful of red lentils, and a half-cup of macaroni. The onions, garlic and celery were turned into a bit of a sofrito (basically by chucking them into the slow cooker with the lid on while I chopped up everything else) and then I added the next batch of ingredients (stock, root veges, grains and lentils) once they'd softened up enough to be fragrant. Then simmer for an hour, then add the next batch of veges (cabbage and beans) then simmer for another couple of hours, then add the macaroni, simmer for another hour and serve. Turns out rather like minestrone, thick enough to require a spoon when taken from a mug, and very tasty. It's currently being brought up to boiling point again in the slow cooker, and then I'll just leave it simmering for the rest of the day.

Winter is soup time, as far as I'm concerned.

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Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
On My 40th Birthday I...

Washed up the dishes (and cleared the backlog of dirty dishes, yay!)
Collected the junk mail delivery from the driveway, read it, and dumped it all in the recyling box
Thought about making a chocolate mud cake (and decided to put it off for a bit)
Told the local JWs I wasn't interested in a copy of the Watchtower (or whichever publication God is pressing them to sell at present)
Brought in the washing from the clothesline
Added a few more cookbooks worth of data to my ongoing list of "recipes I'd like to try".
Noodled around on the internet a little
Answered a phone call

(really glamorous way to spend the day, huh?)

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Current Mood: pensive pensive
Employed Again

Well, I have a job again, for the first time since October 2008. I'm working for a call centre in Bunbury.

For those who don't live in WA, Bunbury is a big regional centre about two hours south of Perth. Since the suburb I live in is about half an hour south of Perth, I have an hour and a half commute every workday. Yay.

Good points: it's the same call centre Himself is working in, so we get to carpool (I tend to drive down, he drives home again); they pay me; I'm actually given a reason to get out of bed in the mornings.

Not-so-good points: Bunbury is a fair old way from home; I work Saturday through Wednesday, he works Monday through Friday, which means whoever is at home is without the car, because it's spending the day in a carpark in Bunbury; I have to get out of bed in the mornings (up at six to be out the door by eight-thirty to be ready to work by ten-thirty - so arriving at work by about ten-fifteen at the latest).

At present, it's just a six week contract. If I wind up having a job after the end of six weeks, we may start looking at moving down to Bunbury (or at least as far as Mandurah, the half-way point between Perth and Bunbury) in order to cut commute times and make things a bit more civilised in terms of shopping arrangements. At present, I'm looking at switching my one unit of university study over to external study (because there is no way known to mankind I'm going to be able to be attending lectures in Murdoch and working in Bunbury simultaneously) and seeing whether I can keep up external study while working. I figure it'll be one way of making a difference in my day.

But yeah. Working. Wow.

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Current Mood: exhausted exhausted
I Love Centrelink - Part 2

More on my ongoing argument with the Australian government regarding money. I was due to be paid this week. It was a public holiday on Monday, and there's usually a bit of a quirk or two about the way payments are processed on public holidays (it's still set up for the pre-computerised days, where you actually needed staff in the building to handle the transactions). So when I couldn't see any money in my account on Monday, I didn't curse or swear. I checked my account yesterday - still no money.

Now, this is where things get interesting. Being the logical creature I am, I decided to troop off down to the local Centrelink office to find out what the heck was going on. Well, it was a busy day yesterday - day after a public holiday, plus I think the computers might have gone down for a while fairly early on, since the queues were just about out the door when we got there, and hadn't really dropped much by the time we left about an hour or so later. I found out why they hadn't paid me, though - while my Newstart had been suspended, pending the processing of my Austudy claim, the claim hadn't been processed. They booked me in for a walk-in appointment, warning me it could be up to a 2 hour wait.

It wasn't. I think I might have waited about three-quarters of an hour. So that was one good thing, anyway.

When I finally got to see the CSO (Customer Service Officer) who was dealing with my case, I discovered the reason why my claim hadn't been processed. They'd lost it.

No, really. They had lost my claim.

Now, I'd handed in this claim form in person, at the same office I was talking to about the whole issue, about three weeks previously. I had given it to one of their staff. She'd presumably put it into the internal mail, and sent it off to be processed by whoever the Austudy experts are (and wherever they are). And somewhere in all of that, the whole thing had somehow got lost.

The end result is I have to submit a whole new claim form (complete with proof of ID and enough bits and pieces of evidence to sink a small battleship) and start the whole process again. If I'm lucky, they'll backdate my payment, so I get paid for the time spent waiting for the whole shemozzle to process.

Remind me again why I wanted to go back to university. I keep forgetting.

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Current Mood: totally gobsmacked totally gobsmacked
I Love Centrelink.

I love Centrelink. Really, I do.

But sometimes, they make it extremely, agonisingly difficult to so much as like them. Like today, where I've received a lovely little note from them saying my unemployment benefit had been suspended pending enquiries regarding my eligibility. This effectively means I have no money coming in.

Now, I am well aware that the whole business revolves around the issue of which section of Centrelink's budget the money they will (hopefully) be paying me once again will be coming out of (I'm hopefully moving from Newstart - aka "the dole" - to Austudy). But a single-sentence letter saying my payment has been suspended, when I'm on the low end of a pay fortnight, and I am literally down to my last week's rent (I have $300 in my bank account - this will cover the cost of my share of the rent for next fortnight; after that I don't have any money at all) DOES NOT HELP THINGS at this end of the equation. Now I'm in a real tizzy about whether or not I'm actually going to be paid any money at all for the next fortnight, and what the hell I'm going to do if I'm not paid anything and what the hell I'm supposed to do to obtain the next instalment of the rent.

Okay, maybe I'm over-reacting, but the absolute terror that comes from realising I have no money and I have no way of getting any in a world which is very much geared toward needing money from people in order to acknowledge their very existence is very hard to overstate. Particularly since one of the number one nightmares I have, the really deep, existential fear which drives my very being, is a fear of vanishing completely from people's notice - slipping through the cracks in reality, perhaps.

I'm stressed, and I'll admit it. If I don't wind up getting onto Austudy; if I have to re-apply for Newstart, or worse still if my eligibility for either of those benefits is cut off and I'm regarded as being ineligible for both of them (for whatever reason) then I am genuinely without resources. The global financial crisis may not have hit Australia very hard, but it's hit our particular household hard enough that we are teetering constantly on the verge of bankruptcy, and we literally have no financial resources available to us. It's a stress I don't need, coming on top of a bundle of other stresses I didn't want.

[I'm having to write this in fits and starts, because if I stop and think about things too much, I'll wind up flooding my keyboard with tears, and at this stage I can't afford a new one.]

So for the rest of the day I'm going to sit tight, and try not to think too hard about any of this. I may have to sublimate a lot of the anxiety in a frenzy of washing dishes and cleaning the house, or gaming, or find some way of doing something to take my mind off things. Tomorrow I have my orientation day at uni, and I'm going to be absent from about 8 in the morning until I finally stumble home at about 10 past 5 in the evening. Hopefully by then I'll have received a nice letter telling me whether or not I'm getting Austudy. If not, I have a meeting with the nice man from CRS on Friday (to which I am going to have to scoot directly from the second uni orientation day, missing the social activities side of things... damnit) where I'll be able to get him onto the whole mess. After all, HE was the one who recommended I go back to uni. He can damn well earn his fucking keep.

Now, if you'll all excuse me, I'm going to pour myself a cup of tea, and try to convince myself that this will all work out in the end.

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Current Mood: pissed off pissed off
Well, that's my free time sorted for another year

I got a nice letter from the university I went and attacked dracolichs at on Monday. They said "yes, we'd love to see you here this year, here's a web address, now get cracking on your enrolment, O Week is next week!"

So I am now enrolled as a full-time student (I hope... I have a funny feeling that because I don't have to do a Foundation Unit[1] I may just be scraping in a little below the "full-time" course load radar). But I'll go along there tomorrow (bus and train again) and then over to the nice people at Centrelink some time soon (oh crap... I've just realised, the best time to go and talk to them would be NOW! before they get mixed messages from Murdoch, Transperth and everyone else they get information from, and decide on an Alexandrine solution to the whole Gordian mess by cutting off my payments altogether! Excuse me while I grab the phone...)

And having done that, I've discovered I can't actually sign up for their customer disservices online, because I don't have (wait for it) a receipt number from Centrelink for some time in the past eight weeks. I'm on delayed lodgement through my Job Services Australia provider (my next form isn't due in until about the middle of March) and this means I generally go three months at a stretch without seeing the inside of a Centrelink office. The last time I went in there was when I went to find out why the heck the nice people from the government agency who were handling the bond assistance hadn't managed to get things set up to take the money directly from my payment (which apparently needed a different piece of paperwork from the one I had in my hot little hand, and therefore couldn't be dealt with right there and then).

[...]

And now I'm back again, stressed out, tired out, shopped out, and about ready to strangle things. And I still have to head back to the Centrelink office tomorrow to actually get the bloody stuff submitted and handed in (because although I can *print out* the form from their online page, I can't actually submit it online (or at least, that's how I'm reading things - and since just *finding* the bloody form took about six go-rounds of their website, because I still had my mind in dealing with the university mode, where they go for "sensible and logical" as a default, rather than bureaucracy, where the default is "bloody-minded to the extreme", I'm not going to push my luck). My only worry is that there's apparently rules which say the government is only going to support me for so many years of study (and this is equivalent to the length of the course plus one semester). Now, over the past twenty-two years, since I finished high school, I've spent at least eight of these engaged in either full-time or part-time study. Of those eight years, Centrelink was supporting me for an absolute maximum of four (and three of those four were when I was working for them, so I strongly doubt they count!). But I am in full "dealing with a government department" paranoia mode at present. So I'm going to head down there tomorrow, tidied up and ready to face the worst they can throw at me.

Meanwhile, since the paranoia module in my brain is kicking out in full throttle at the moment, I'm currently panicking that I'll bomb out in the first semester, crashing and burning and failing horrendously. Ah, the joys of going back to uni.

Wish me luck, folks.

[1] Foundation Units are a Murdoch University speciality for students who have never been to university before - basically "uni in a box 101" for kids who are just learning how to put things together. Since this will be my fourth attempt at an undergraduate degree they figure I already know what I'm doing with regard to things like writing essays, attending lectures, and showing up for tutorials.

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Current Mood: frantic frantic
Christmas on a Shoestring

So, we're on the dole, paying about $300 a week (or $300 each per fortnight, out of about a $400 fortnightly payment) in rent, and trying to figure out how we're going to cover the cost of Christmas. Fortunately for me, I've been feeling full of energy since we moved into the new place (I think it's a combination of the other shoe finally dropping - we had to give up our old place after a couple of years of not knowing if or when that would happen - and the cheerful realisation that being woken up at oh-good-grief in the morning by the day breaking through the window seems to set up my biological clock for a good day) so I decided to give our immediate families (my parents and younger brother; Himself's parents) something home-made as a way of dealing with the whole "gifts" issue. So yesterday we did a big shop, and bought ingredients for about six different types of chocolate truffle (and I collected the extra bits needed for a seventh today) and I'm making them at approximately one recipe per day until Chrimble finally hits.

This involves a lot of melting of chocolate, and making small balls of various things, coating them in other things, and chilling them in the refrigerator until they're "done". So it's all heaps of fun right up to the point where I have to do the ball making, because despite having extremely poor peripheral circulation (to the point where my hands get cold walking through a supermarket freezer section in the height of an Aussie summer, and stay cold for a good hour or two afterwards) my hands don't get cold enough to roll balls of truffle mixture without getting extremely sticky. I also can't roll balls of choc-dipped truffle mixture between my palms without getting chocolate practically *everywhere*. Definitely something to get my younger niece involved with, I think - the messiness of it might appeal to her. On the positive side, I've just completed the second batch, which are chilling down in the fridge as I type this (all I have to do now is finish tidying up... ergh). Only another five to go. Then I get to make up the gift boxes I bought, find out whether we have any cards hidden somewhere near the surface, and do fancy tags for each one (it's amazing how useful my stationery craze can be at times - I have enough fancy-schmancy pens to sink a small aircraft carrier).

Oh, handy tip for those in the extreme southern metro region in Perth, WA (eg Kwinana/Rockingham/Mandurah) - The Spud Shed, on Kerosene Lane in Baldivis is a brilliant place to shop. They do fruit and veg, plus wholesale priced meat and fish, and a fairly good range of groceries too, and it's all at nice low prices. It's not absolutely brilliant quality - the fruit and veg is definitely the stuff Coles and Woolies reject (slight blemishes and marks on the fruit, veg is a bit smaller than average) but it's certainly edible, and for the price, it's well worth the trip.

Now, on to the dishes.

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Current Mood: hopeful hopeful
Excuse me while I scream

There are days when I want to kill my partner. This is one of them.

As some of you may be aware, we're under a few deadlines at the moment. For one thing, we have roughly 1 week left in our current place of residence. For another, while we've put in an option on a rental place, we haven't heard back from them yet (except for a quick call yesterday which didn't make me feel positive at all, since they were saying firstly they hadn't heard back from our one and only rental reference, and secondly they wanted whole heaps of information about what Himself does for a living). So while we do know we have to move out, we don't know whether we have somewhere else to move into at the other end of it. Stress number one.

Stress number two: The real estate agent who is attempting to sell the place has one offer, for about $110K less than we need to clear all our existing debts. We discovered today there's a potential second buyer (I discovered this when I spotted him peering in our front windows, under the impression the house was empty). Rather than refer the man to the real estate agents, Himself has decided to try and sell the place privately, and thus save the fees and commissions.

I've already warned Himself if this backfires, and we lose both buyers, he's going to be hearing about it from me on possibly a daily basis for the next twenty years at least. Other than this, I'm staying the hells out - I don't have the energy, or the stamina, to get involved in arguing with him.

Stress number three: I went for a job interview last week. I still haven't heard back from the company involved, and I'm suspecting I'll get the usual answer when I do (ie "Sorry, not interested"). So I'm busy waiting back to hear from the recruiting firm, who'll probably give me some kind of vague answer along the lines of "oh, they didn't say" rather than the truth of the matter, which is probably along the lines of me being too old, too female, and/or too fat for the job (it's a helpdesk operator position - by "too fat" they mean "not pretty enough", or "not suitable office totty". Women are under-represented in the IT industry for some reason, and none of the guys can figure out quite why...). So I have this inevitable disclosure to look forward to.

Stress number four: Himself's parents have made an offer to us of the use of a couple of rooms in their house should we find ourselves without somewhere to go. It's starting to look like we might have to take them up on this. I don't want to do this, since at present I'm stressed enough without having to wear my "public" face all the damn time.

Stress number five: I'm unemployed. Christmas is coming up. 'Nuff said?

Stress number six: Day one of my period, and I have cramps and a temper like a bear with toothache.

End result: while I'm sure my situation has a whole heap of positives in there (as per my nice rep from Commonwealth Rehab Services) I can't really see them at the moment. All I can see is the potential for things to go very badly wrong. This doesn't make me any more likely to relax, or calm down, or want to do anything other than sit in a corner and scream for a bit. Unfortunately, I'm not able to do this at the moment because Himself's folks are over doing a spot of weeding for us (and probably thinking of me as the most lazy bitch in the universe, which is probably true) and I can't really let loose until they've gone.

Small relief: I've just discovered I can suspend my health insurance rather than cancelling it, which means I've one less expense to worry about. It also means I've another $60 per fortnight to play with when it comes to rent and similar, rather than spending it on the health insurance.

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Current Mood: stressed stressed
Current Music: "Not Pretty Enough", the Spooky Men's Chorale
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