Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My brain is full, can I stop working now?

This is a completely gratuitous procrastination blog. I'm hard at work on a big project that is taking up every last one of my brain cells, it's 7pm, phil's in Sydney and I've got veges roasting in the oven to have with home-made pesto, fried halloumi, spinach and pasta. Of COURSE I can't be expected to concentrate on the Kreb's cycle! (it's a metabolic biochemical pathway - you don't want to know).
We've had a blissful two whole days without workmen coming to the house. I think we broke an all-time record last week with five lots of tradesman all turning up to the house on the same day to do completely separate jobs.
But the peace will be short-lived. This Thursday, we start putting the double-glazing in, which should considerably lower our heating requirements, reducing our greenhouse gas output (YAY!) and make the house a cosier place to be.
Of course, all these renovations don't come cheap, which is why I am sitting in front of my computer at 7pm. No rest for the wicked consumer.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Consume Consume

Roku Screen

Roku in the hand
I have been spending money =) after Bianca's rants I thought a bit of shopping therapy would help.
I have bought the BEST gadget eva.
But before I tell you about it I need to get the background excuses out of the way and so you can see why I obviously needed to spend the money. I have recently bought a good set of speakers, not that is not the gadget just something everyone needs, and I have been listening to lots of music again but I have found that I was missing a way to find new music. I was listening to the radio a fair bit before we moved to the mountains but [mountains ≠ good radio reception]. So I was thinking do we need to get a new aerial and wire it in or could we use digital radio or something. Digital radio has not really hit Australia and I don't think that would give me the breadth of listening. So I started wondering if there were any good Internet Radio gadgets that I could connect to the amp, that way I can access thousands of international radio stations.
I found the perfect solution to my consuming guilts! The Roku Soundbridge lets you listen to most internet radio stations and also most sound files you have on your network and it is sooo easy to set up.
I had it out of the box and working within 2 minutes. Plug it in and it found my wifi network, type in the wifi security code and immediately I could play BBC radio 5! Then I ticked a share option on iTunes and went back to the Roku and I could start playing all the stuff on my laptop all browse-able by genre, playlist etc.
To add new radio stations I go to the inbuilt website, yes it is a web server to, and add the address of the radio stream there. Oh I can also control it fully from my laptop or any computer on the network!!
OK so maybe you have no idea what I am going on about so just be assured that this gadget is the best eva and I really really needed it =)
Did I tell you that you can listen to what David Byrne is currently listening to...I know isn't the internet BRILL!

New Kitchen

New Kitchen

New Kitchen - island
We finally have a new kitchen!! After 2 weeks of washing up in the bath (I wouldn't let Bianca take a picture of me washing up naked) we can now wash standing upright =)
We love the new kitchen and it seems to be performing well. Still got a bit of painting to do and I feel we need to buy a couple of things to go on top of the island. Would love to hear what you think esp if you come and see it in person. Oh that is unless you say 'are you going to straighten the island?' as most workmen seem to ask.
So we have been good little consumers =) (Bianca writes: And I've been tormented every step of the way with the environmental implications of this!)
We went small on the fridge to most people's horror but it is working well so far. The kitchen hardware (cooker, fridge, freezer etc) we spent very little on and we have cheapo laminate drawer fronts. Our biggest splurge was the benchtops which are corian and this has really finished it off well we think.
For people in the Blue Mountains we would recommend our kitchen people New Age Kitchens

Monday, May 21, 2007

Snug as a bug in a rug

Snug as a bug in a rug
Originally uploaded by Mistress B.
After two consecutive ranty blog entries I thought it was time for a quick "actually, life's pretty darn good" blog entry. I think this photo says it all really. We had just spent a lovely weekend walking, eating and talking with friends Stephen and Bridget, and after a Sunday lunch at Vulcans, Phil curled up in the beanbag in front of the fire for a doze while I went out into the garden and pottered for an hour.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Children of Men

It's not often that a movie affects me so much that I just burst with the need to organise my thoughts on paper, or in this case, on blog. Children of Men has had such an effect. This apocalyptic vision of a world without children, without hope and without humanity was so distressing yet it wasn't so surreal that I didn't think our society could already be on such a crash-course.
The premise is a world where a mysterious plague of infertility has eradicated the world of children. Such nihilism ensues that most of the planet has fallen into anarchy, except for the UK which maintains a poor semblance of normality. But the cost of this 'normality' is the forced internment of any and all refugees who try to escape to the UK (sound familiar?). The landscape is stark, colourless and heavily polluted, as if human kind has given up hope for itself and the future and has flung itself headlong into careless abandon.
It wasn't just the scenes of refugees, both old and young, black and white, being rounded into cages, brutalised and finally interned in chaotic camps that struck a chord. It was the sense that humanity had given up hope, and decided to stop caring. It was all about the haves and the have-nots, us and them. It was the sense that this slide has already begun in our own society.
Those of us lucky enough to be born or live in the West have everything. We (and I include myself in this) occasionally feel that we might struggle, that it's hard, that we can't get what we want, but when compared to a fisherman in Bangladesh, or a single mother with four kids in Sudan, we have so much it's almost obscene. Yet our government, who we as a nation voted in, wants to close our borders to refugees arguing that our country, our economy, cannot sustain them and us at the same time. How can they possibly argue that when most people in this nation have more than one television? When we throw out half the food we buy because we don't get around to eating it in time? When we upgrade our cars every few years to have the latest model?
And equally, it makes me ill when I hear the Australian and US governments argue that complying with the Kyoto Protocol will be too damaging to our economies. What right does the West have to soil the planet in pursuit of luxury, then deny any responsibility?
I live in the mountains, so I'm unlikely to be affected by rising sea levels. It's pretty cold and wet up here at the moment, so it would be easy to think that when the impact of climate change is felt here, it won't be so bad. It's easy to stick my head in the sand. But the rice I cooked last night comes from a part of the country that is already so dry we are destroying our natural river systems just to keep it functioning. So much of what I take for granted will become a scarce resource within my lifetime.
Even worse than that, and far more important, is the sense that just about everything I do as a priveleged Westerner will mean death for someone in the developing world. When I turn on the heating because I'm a little cold in my cotton top, the resulting greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming, rising sea levels and the watery destruction of a fishing village in Bangladesh.
I want to feel responsible. I want to feel guilty. I want to judge my every decision and my every purchase by how much destruction it is going to cause. Until our society and our government starts to do that, I'm terrified that the world of Children of Men will be upon us before we can blink.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Not Happy, Sony

Sorry, everyone, this is a bit of a rant but I'm a cranky consumer and I have a blog. I recently bought my first ever laptop - a very cute little Sony Vaio VGN-C21 - to do all my work on. We're a big Sony household, and just about every second gadget Phil buys is from Sony so I had come to expect a pretty high standard from this company. But my laptop was a sad disappointment. It came with Windows Vista installed, and was as slow as a sloth on Stillnox, to the point where it became essentially unusable even for word processing. We're talking 10 second delays switching between documents, sometimes 15 minutes to load up from sleep mode, very slow responsiveness to any task and regular 'freezes' of several minutes while the computer 'thinks'.
It turns out that even though the minimum RAM requirement for Vista is 512MB (which I have), it can barely run on this and any computer with Vista as an operating system needs at least 1GB to be even half-way decent. Even the guy I spoke to at the Sony Helpline told me I needed 1GB of RAM for Vista.
So why the heck is Sony selling laptops that are underpowered to run the operating system they sell them with? Their product is essentially not fit for purpose - it can't even cope with Office programs - yet they are leaving this for their customers to discover the hard way, as I did after two months of frustration and anger.
I have since purchased another 512MB of RAM, at a cost of $199, which has made a drastic improvement to my computer speeds. But I am one very pissed off customer. How simple would it have been for Sony to just pre-install the extra memory in any laptops with only 512MB and which run Vista. That might have cost them just $50-$100 to do, they could add it on to the price and most customers wouldn't even notice. Instead, they've chosen to try and sneak this shortfall under the radar and hope that customers won't be bothered by a new laptop that runs slower than an old dinosaur desktop. WRONG!
I'm not the only person in the world to experience this frustration, and I'm sure that this is having an effect on the otherwise good reputation of Sony Vaio computers and Sony in general. I sent a very cranky email to Sony's customer complaints line last week spelling all this out and have I had a reply - no. So now I'm on the war path. Bad move, Sony.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Kitchen kaos

Ruins of the old kitchen
Originally uploaded by Mistress B.
New kitchen!
It's all happened with alarming speed. Just a month and a half ago we wandered into a kitchen design showroom and started talking ideas, then at 7am on Monday morning a big, monosyllabic bloke turned up with a crowbar and started tearing into the old kitchen with almost joyful violence. Bye bye leaky benchtops, uneven surfaces, faulty stove tops, constant fire alarm triggers (due to lack of rangehood), sticky drawers and knobs that unscrew themselves!
I spent most of the day hiding upstairs as I found the whole process rather traumatic, but Phil nobly supervised things and made sure weird things weren't done in the name of haste.
Once the old kitchen had been reduced to splinters, in marched the army with the shiny new blue cabinets and sparkling appliances! The blue looks great, and it's so nice having things that work. You can't see in the bottom photo, but we've got a bench-level fridge and freezer on the back of the island bench, so that's meant a fair degree of rationalising of refrigeratored items.
We don't get benchtops for another week as the corian/staron people have to measure up after the cabinets are installed and level. So we're currently doing our washing up in the bathtub. But the appliances are working so we can cook.
This morning at 6.45am (!!) someone started installing the range hood, and we get the final electricals done on Friday.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Mudgee meets my liver

Guess who comes off second best! Yep, the old liver took a bit of a battering this weekend when Phil, Dean, Lisa and I headed out west to Mudgee - wine country. What a gorgeous part of the world, not to mention being home to Australia's most incredibly tasty reds, whites and sweet wines. We spent a very fun afternoon being bused around eight different wineries, and consumed approximately a bottle of wine each in tastings alone. I know we're supposed to be paying for a new kitchen (which is being installed as a write this) but we couldn't hep ourselves, and bought four and a half cases of vino. The plan is to cellar most of it ... at least, that's the plan. Exactly how we're going to stop ourselves drinking all these delicious reds is a bit beyond me, but we'll just have to see how we go!
We had beautiful accommodation in the old owner's house in the Pieter Van Gent winery, which also happened to have some of the tastiest sticky and fortified wines. Very handy that we ended up at this winery as the last stop on our tour, so were able to guzzle our way through their selection in alphabetic order then crawl home to our accommodation on our hands and knees.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Extreme recycling

There's recycling, and then there's Recycling, the Nogrady way. If you look closely at this photo, you'll notice there are three different kinds of pre-loved wrapping paper that have gone into wrapping this birthday present. My family (actually, we can narrow that down to my Mum) has an obsession with reusing wrapping paper, to the extent that our Christmas presents are often wrapped in paper that I remember being on Christmas presents when I was a kid.
My brother has added his own unique take on this practice, by wrapping our Christmas presents in items of his clothing, including underwear (thankfully washed first).
Mum and Dad might drive an enormous fuel-guzzler but i feel they have more than compensated for this environmental blight by the sheer number of trees saved from being reincarnated as wrapping paper.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

You've got rellies!

Originally uploaded by Mistress B.
Up until this past Sunday, I've thought of my circle of relatives as being my immediate family, my uncle, aunt and three cousins, and Nan. Imagine, then, the surprise of meeting about 50 or so Australians on Sunday, with whom I share a blood or marriage tie. So it was with the Hilder family reunion, organised by my incredible mother. She managed to pull together just about all her first cousins and their families, which is no mean feat considering they are the immediate offspring of the seven brothers and sisters of the Hilder family. My grandfather, Clive, was the youngest of this clan. This photo is of Bryan, who I'm not sure is the son of, but I can see a definite resemblance to my Pa. Pa died a few years ago, so it was really nice to be reminded of him and have such a sense of connection to him and through him, to the rest of the enormous Hilder family.
Nan is the last surviving member of that generation, although she's part of the clan by marriage rather than blood. But it was very clear how precious she is to so many of this extended family - not just because she represents the last link with Clive, Phyllis, Daisy, Fred and the other siblings, but because she is a truly wonderful, beautiful woman, and a true lady. As she is in hospital recovering from a stroke, Nan wasn't able to make it in person, but so many people - many of whom I had never met - talked about her fondly and asked after her, that she was very much there in spirit.