A Household Hint
I've been made unemployed again (my contract expired at the end of last month - if you're hiring admin staff in Western Australia and need someone three days a week, let me know!) so I'm spending a lot of time at home. This is (fortunately or unfortunately) currently coinciding with a bout of rather nasty pain from my right temporo-mandibular joint, which means I'm currently drinking one heck of a lot of tea in an effort to keep things from getting entirely too painful. Plus, of course, it is SPRING in Australia, and it's been about three years since the rear courtyard and steps of our place were sprayed with weed-killer. So in order to be dealing with the combined problems of a) boredom; b) too many weeds in the paving; and c) no money to spend on weed-killer, I've been using what I call "the poor person's glyphosate" on the weeds in the rear paving.
What is the poor person's glyphosate? Boiling water. To kill weeds in paving, pour boiling water over them until they start to either a) wilt; b) smell like cooking greenery; or c) both. If it's a really big, bushy weed, pour the water over the base of the plant - kill that and you'll get the rest of it, trust me.
This has several advantages over commercial weed-killers. Firstly, it's entirely non-toxic to the rest of the garden (and to the gardener, for that matter). The thing which is killing the weeds is the heat, not the chemicals - the water itself is entirely non-toxic to the garden when it cools down past boiling point. Secondly, it's not toxic to animal life (if you have pets or fish, you can use this particular weed-killer with no problems whatsoever - just keep them out of range for about five minutes while things cool down). Thirdly, it's also a nice, non-toxic way of dealing with the ants in the paving (pour boiling water down an anthill to give the ants the hint you're not interested in having them excavating Right There). Fourthly, it's cheap and easy. Or at least, it's certainly a lot cheaper and easier than buying commercial weed-killer and using that would be.
Essentially, what I've been doing is each time I boil up the kettle for a cup of tea, I've been taking the remaining hot water out the back door while the tea brews, and pouring it onto a clump of weeds. So far I've managed to clear the back steps, and I'm getting started on the paving nearest the door to the house. At this rate, I'll hopefully have everything cleared by about the end of the next week or so. Then I can get started on the front paving, and clear a bit of that.
 Long story short-ish: the temporo-mandibular joint is inflamed, which refers pain to the nerve on the right hand side of my jaw, which means if I'm not taking regular painkillers, I wind up with everything from my wisdom teeth to the front edge of my right incisors aching like blazes. Including the upper pre-molar which was removed a few years ago. It's a bit annoying, to put things mildly. (Actual joint pain: about a 2 - 3 out of 10. Once the teeth get involved: easily a 6 - 7 out of 10, if not higher). This only gets worse if my right ear or the right side of my jaw get cold. Hence hot liquids as a palliative measure.
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Cos I'm Working for the Dole, Working for the Do-hole...
As a dole-bludging layabout, perennial leaner who is failing/refusing to "have a go", and parasitical drainer of the Australian taxpayer, the time has come once again for me to perform public penance for the sin of being unemployed and (apparently) unemployable. I'm working for the dole again.
This time around, I'm cooking for the homeless. I did my first day of it on Thursday. I'm working in a commercial kitchen space for a charity group; the charity group are hiring the kitchen space from the Uniting Church, and there's apparently supposed to be about twenty-five of us in the group. On Thursday there were three of us, and we were still having to dodge each other a lot of the time - by the time they get up to twenty-five people into this rather small and not-air-conditioned space, in the middle of the Australian summer... well, let's just say it's going to be standing room only, and pass things from hand to hand, and we'd better be allowed to keep water bottles on hand so we don't all keel over from heat exhaustion.
On Thursday we basically did baking (Carrot Cake muffins from one person; ANZAC biscuits from me; and the bloke in the group was doing a spaghetti sauce, I think) which was frozen for future use, and we took inventory of what we had for cooking with. Everything is donated, which means we have some interesting oversupplies, and some interesting little blank spots. For example, the ANZAC biscuits were made without coconut, because we didn't have any - instead, we gave 'em extra rolled oats. The icing for the cupcakes was supposed to have cream cheese in, but because they didn't have any of that, the person making them threw in extra butter. It's an exercise in figuring out what can and what can't be done with what we have. Lots of substitutions. The take-away lesson I'm getting from this is if I'm going to donate to a service like this, I'm going to be giving money rather than goods (or at least looking for a shopping list or similar from them).
We had disposable plastic aprons to be wearing, which after about ten minutes tended to start sticking to my chest (perils of v-necked t-shirts in such a situation) from the amount of perspiration I was pouring out. I've dug out the two cloth aprons I have from home, and I'll be using those in future. At least with a cotton apron, I know it's not going to stick to me.
One of the little facets of this job that I wasn't strictly prepared for was it's all standing work. Now, the last time I had to stand for long periods as part of doing my job was back when I was working checkouts, in August 1996. After a twenty-two year break, my feet aren't happy with the whole business, and oh boy did they let me know about it. Fortunately, I remember the trick for dealing with sore feet from back in my checkout days - about ten to fifteen minutes of laying down with my feet higher than my head, which allows things to drain a bit, and drastically reduces the throbbiness of things. Also, lace shoes loosely, because tightly laced shoes cut off circulation toward the end of the day.
Another thing I've learned: apply sunscreen before leaving the building on the way home. Due to fun and games down on Albany Highway with pipes and things (the Water board are having so much fun down there) the buses aren't running their usual routes to and from town. Which means while I have about a 300m walk to the bus stop in the morning (8.30am start, which means I'm leaving home around 7.30am in order to get there on time in the morning), on the way home at night, I have something like a four block walk back from Albany Highway to where I'm living on the other side of Berwick Street (or it's a four block walk back down Berwick Street from Balmoral Street). I didn't realise this on Thursday, and got a little sunburned (hottest day in months, and we were sent home early due to lack of work to do).
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Sorry This Is So Delayed...
Let's just say things have been a bit chaotic over here at Chez Meg, and leave it at that. Instead, I give you the five things I have learned this week that I didn't previously know:
1) 26 hours worth of study commitments counts as sufficient to serve as a 25 hour work-for-the-dole commitment (well, I knew that one previously, but I hadn't been certain whether it was the case under the current system. After all, there's a whole bunch of new ministers in place, and you can never tell whether they're going to try and prove how tough they are by kicking the unemployed harder or not).
2) It costs almost as much to have two pairs of jeans altered so they're not dragging in the dirt when I wear them as it did to buy them in the first place ($47.80 vs $50).
3) I have lost my ability to view medical and surgical procedures on human beings without getting squicked.
4) A Brekky Hero Roll costs 5c more at the Hungry Jacks in Gosnells than it does at the Hungry Jacks in Ascot.
5) The Armadale-Kelmscott Memorial Hospital has free parking for 4 hours at a stretch, which is very useful if you have to take someone into Emergency there for a non-urgent procedure.
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Reflections on Jobsearch
I'm starting to think a police clearance (formal notice from the police department that I don't have a criminal record, and that there are no charges pending against me) is basically a component added to job ads for classist (and possibly racist) reasons first and foremost. When you're asking people to have a police clearance (which, the last time I applied for one, several years ago, cost about $60) which is current to within the last three months, what you're basically saying is "I don't want anyone to apply for this job who isn't able to throw away at least $60 every three months on a new piece of paper just to be able to eligible to apply for jobs". It's a way of filtering out the poors.
(To put this in perspective: something else that costs me $60 is two weeks worth of food for one person. So I'm expected to spend the equivalent of my fortnightly food budget every three months, just to obtain a piece of paper intended to show I'm acceptably middle-class).
In a country like Australia, where there is a lot of institutional prejudice against our Indigenous population, and where cultural clashes lead to a higher rate of arrest, charges and imprisonment for Indigenous people (particularly Indigenous men) asking for a clean police clearance (again, a maximum of three months old) is basically saying "no Indigenous need apply", despite whatever the "diversity" statement down the bottom of the ad might be proclaiming about the company welcoming applications from Indigenous people.
Now, I'm reasonably certain this didn't start out as a conscious thing - I've certainly started to notice it a lot more in the last five years - but rather as a way of filtering down the number of applications employers are receiving for every open position. I'm getting little statements from Seek every so often which are telling me "your application doesn't look like it's going to progress any further", and those mention how many applications the employer received via Seek alone - and I've not seen one with a number lower than 200 yet. I got to the interview stage at one employer recently, and they mentioned they'd picked me for interview out of about 200 applicants. There's a lot of these filtering tactics showing up these days - closing dates for applications which are incredibly close to the date of advertising (like, maybe a week); requesting 3 - 5 years of previous experience in the role or something similar; and so on.
Funny, really - I mean, the government trumpets how much they're doing for job creation and such... but there's still over 200 applicants for every position I'm trying for, and I'd suspect the bulk of them are people who are already in jobs, who are looking for a different job, or (since I'm applying primarily for part-time work) for a second job to make ends meet. Which means effectively a lot of the "job growth" in the past few years has instead been a case of musical chairs - people moving from one position to another, and employers only advertising positions when the music stops, so to speak.
(Or in other words, yeah, I've been doing my jobsearch. Again. Things really got a lot easier for me since I stopped expecting to actually get something out of this endless hoop-jumping other than more of the same again next week).
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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).
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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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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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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) 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?
 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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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). 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 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.
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.
 Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, and Special Benefit.
 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".
 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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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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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.
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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:
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. 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).
 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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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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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, 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.
 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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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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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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Achievements for the Week
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.
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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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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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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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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