Stick to what you do best...



I'm not really a "make up" kind of girl. I'm admittedly useless wearing cosmetics and my special occasions / super fancy / go all out make up routine looks minimalistic when compared to any beauty magazine's most basic 5 minute offering. In 2012, I proudly learnt how to apply eyeliner and I used to say that my goal for 2013 was to learn to do eyeshadow, but we're now in June and I'm yet to touch the stuff. We'll see how that goes. 

I follow one particular beauty blogger in my Google Reader (so I can keep abreast of trends I'll never follow and techniques I'll never be able to emulate), and I couldn't help but notice she always has such pretty nails. I did some digging and discovered this was due to a special type of nail polish - Shellac. I knew then and there that I wanted me some of that, and bookmarked the brand for a special occasion. 

That occasion ended up being two weeks ago, after I completed my OHS Cert III. I marched myself and my short cut nails down to a place that did Shellac manicures for cheap, and sought out the blackest black that they had. I'm sure the girl doing my nails didn't think much of them, but she was very polite and didn't say anything as she filed my pitiful nails into something with a nice curve. I walked out out of there with super shiny, glossy black nails. I felt pretty. I felt sharp and put together. I felt on top of the world!

So that was two weeks ago, my nails have most decidedly grown out, and there is now a large expanse of naked nail showing. Earlier this afternoon I decided to take matters into my own hands. I grabbed some nail polish in a similar shade, and set about applying a coat of paint. The end result didn't look so good. Lets just say I could have achieved a similar look by dunking my fingers up to the first knuckle in a pot of black ink. I think the only way to rectify the situation will be remove all the nail polish completely. But I hear the way to remove Shellac is to soak ones hands in acetone for 10 minutes, and I'm just not mentally ok with doing that to myself just yet. 

I'm sure there's a life lesson in all of this. Some things are best left to the professionals. 

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Designing places for introverts

The best book that I read last year was Quiet by Susan Cain. It challenged the ideas I've internalised about myself, and it also caused me to look at many people in my life in a new light. I've been mulling the book over for a few months now, and I like to think I've used some of the ideas in it to make changes that have improved my life significantly.

Thoughts on introversion /extroversion have also found their way into my other favourite thing to think about - buildings (surprise!). I've been pondering the different ways introverts and extroverts interact with the places around them. As we all know, over the past few decades, open plan offices have become the normal corporate working environment as this is thought to encourage teamwork, collaboration and brainstorming. What this focus on continual interaction means is that the modern office is increasingly designed in a manner that accommodates extroverts' preferred work styles. However, the heightened levels of environmental stimulation that make extroverts feel at home can also be a source of stress for many introverts. 

After reading Quiet, I was a lot more aware of the way the open plan office I previously worked in affected me and my quality of work, so I was able to adopt some practices that allowed me to stay in my happy introvert bubble. The two most helpful changes I made were 1) giving myself permission to put my earphones in and listen to music during the day, and 2) making the conscious effort to avoid the communal break room and take my lunch by myself in order to recharge.  

My project team has just gone out to site and we've settled into our new digs for the next two years. Typically, site accommodation is a bunch of portables joined together, however our site was too long and skinny for this to be an option. We realised four months ago that we needed to design a custom building and somehow, this task fell to me (why they thought it was a good idea for the bean-counter to do this, I will never know) . So I drew upon everything I could remember from Environmental Building Systems (lots of windows along the north wall in order to maximise natural light, operable windows to allow for natural ventilation, glazing to the internal office walls for daylight penetration, wet areas concentrated in one part of the building) and I designed an office that seemed like the best working environment given the constraints of the site. 

And to everyone's great surprise (not least my own) everything went off according to plan and the building that was once just a scribbled outline on a scrap of paper came to life in front of me. The space is long and narrow, the offices for the managers are on one side with glazed internal partitions, and there is a long desk running the entire length of the office on the other side. Each person sits in front of a window and there are large bookcases separating each person from the adjacent work station. It was airy, it had plenty of natural light (and plenty of storage space) and it felt like a home, not a transient impersonal portable.

I loved the space, and so did several of my (quieter) work colleagues. But not everyone felt that way. One bubbly personality thought the distance between people was too far, and he would have preferred people's desks to face each other instead of out the window - he thought the office was isolating. I was taken aback by his comments, not because someone had the temerity to question my design intent (I failed the only first year architecture subject I attempted) but because I'd designed the site office during the period when I'd had introverted and extroverted working styles on my mind, and the thought never entered my head that I was designing an office that was biased toward me, an introvert. No, I'd designed the office based on what I thought was sensible, but I completely missed the fact that my ideas about a good working environment were weighted towards my own introverted preferences. Doh!

It got me wondering if it is possible to design an office that is equally inviting to both introverts and extroverts. I consulted an architect friend, and we both doubted that it was feasible (hot desking being a possible but impractical solution). That said, we're both at early stages in our careers, and there is much we don't know. But surely there is some way to get around this? It shouldn't be a zero sum game. We should be able to come up with design solutions that allow extroverts and introverts to feel comfortable in their working environments. If you have any ideas on how to achieve this, or on ways you've seen this done well, please let me know. I'll file it all away for the next time I'm designing a site office.

PS Cain's TED talk is a treat. I really recommend it if you haven't seen it already. 

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All safe and sound

Scarlet lies sleeping next to me. Thunder clouds roll and grumble in the distance, and she stirs; half awake, half concerned. I place my hand on her side and she instantly relaxes back into sleep.
And no sounds are heard except for the grizzling of the far off storm and the steady drizzle of the rain. Our little pack is safe and warm, cocooned together in our refuge from the world.

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All Grown Up

Do you remember when you started feeling like an adult?

I've only started feeling this way in the past few months. Yes, I'm well past the legal age of majority. Yes, I finished high school, got a job, moved out and completed a bachelors degree. Along the way I also managed to get married, start a business and buy a house. So many traditional makers of maturity, but yet I always felt like I was pretending, and that at some point I'd slip up and something would expose me as the gawky, gangly girl I've always been. It's funny that I felt like this, because I'm more than capable in every area of my life, and I've been successfully standing on my own two feet for a long time. Looking back, it felt like I was navigating the nebulous space between high school and adult life, but with no map, and no idea what "adulthood" would look like when I got there.

The thing that made me realise I'd grown up was when my work sent me interstate to help out on a different project for a few weeks. I remember thinking "holy heck, these guys think I actually have some skills that are worth something. And they trust me not to go nuts on the mini bar." If I want to over-analyse things, I think this moment was so pivotal because I invest so much energy into my career (it's probably not cool to admit to this, but I'm the type of person who defines herself based on what she does for a living). I love my job, and I like to think that I've got potential to be good at it, so to get some recognition that I'm not a complete liability to the company was really affirming. 

And that was the moment that changed the way I viewed myself. And then I went home, and went back to rocking exciting adult things, like paying the mortgage, cleaning the gutters and paying the rates.

That's my little bit of Sunday evening, self-indulgent introspection. Happy Easter, if that's your thing. He is risen!

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Valentines Day

Valentine's Day is pretty much a non-event over here. Our big plan for the evening was going to our Thursday night swing dancing class. But then Metro did its thing, and my train was stuck for 20 minutes somewhere between Mordialloc and Parkdale and we missed the class.

So instead we got fish and chips and had a picnic in the park. Scarlet ran around like a lunatic (she has gotten huge! Huge, I tell you!) while we lay on the grass, traced cloud patterns with our fingers and watched the sky change colour. The park has a flying fox, so we took turns pushing each other on it - Z kept trying to out do himself by pushing me faster and faster.  We laughed and laughed. I got ridiculously dizzy. It was all very unremarkable, but it was a perfect evening. It was the type of moment that you want to make an effort to remember, simply because you are aware of how happy you are.

And then I got home and there were flowers, which did actually surprise me. Yogi continues to hang in there. Scarlet is in the mood for cuddles. Life is very good.

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Untitled

I'm sitting on the couch cuddling a sick ferret and a cupcake, and trying to work through which is the lesser evil: putting him down too early, when he could still have a few days left in him, or putting him down too late and causing him to suffer?

I hate knowing that even at best, we only have a few days left with him. There is a finite number of ferret-cuddles in our future, and that number is dwindling rapidly.

This really sucks.

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Dear iiNet - a love letter

Since Z and I started our cupcake business, I've come to realise the value of a bit of customer feedback. Most people only contact a business when they've had a bad experience, so when someone takes the time to share something good, you really treasure it.  Consequently, one of my New Year's resolutions was to be more vocal in thanking the businesses that do the right thing by me, day in and day out.

My internet connections are essential to my existence, so after I had a great experience with iiNet last week, I figured rather than just fill in the customer feedback survey, I'd write a post that expressed ALL OF THE FEELINGS.  And really, who can restrict their comments to those tiny boxes, anyway?

***

Dear iiNet,

You're actually kind of awesome. If I could have a crush on a company, it would be on you. And, as for Finn? Well, let's just say he speaks to my geek-girl sensibilities. 

We've grown together, you and I. If my memory serves me correctly, when I first signed up in 2008, you were one of the smaller players in the industry. And now look at you, you're the second largest ISP in Australia! But you haven't lost what made you special. Every time I call up, I get to speak to a real person, not a robot that makes me want to button-mash with rage. I appreciate that your call centres are based in Australia, and when I call, I can understand the person on the other end of the phone. Your employees are fantastic. They're genuinely knowledgeable about technology and they're able to suggest creative solutions - it doesn't sound like they're just following a script.  I'm sure everybody has bad days, and no workplace is always sunshine and roses, but your people always seem friendly and happy. Whenever I get off the phone, I tend to get the feeling that the person I've spoken to enjoys their job. 

You've moved with us from house to house, you got me through uni, and your periodic quota increases were always greatly celebrated. When I heard you had moved into mobile services, I was rapt. As soon as our contract with Optus ended this month, I signed Z and I up. (On a side note, your $20 plans really are fantastic value.)

The contrast between you guys and Optus is incredible. I always used to dread calling about my Optus plan. Inevitably something would be not quite right, and I'd be transferred between various call centres in the Philippines and have to explain my story again and again, and hope that somebody would finally figure out what the issue was and make it right. When I had an issue with switching my phone over last week, the person I spoke to knew what the issue was, knew why it was happening, and then he put me on hold while he spoke to another department to expedite your back-end processes so that my phone would switch over quicker and I'd have access to 3G again.

What really impressed me is that A) he took the initiative to fix my problem himself, instead of just transferring me over to another department and B) your systems are flexible enough to allow your employees to make these kind of changes and actually fix my problem. The issue I was having was all part of the normal switch over process, and at Optus, I'm sure I would have been told there was nothing that could be done. I really appreciate that the person I spoke to took time to implement a work around. iiNet - I feel like you care about me! You treat me like a person, not a customer cog in your corporate machine.

In conclusion, you're everything I could hope for in an ISP - and more. I have big plans for our future together. The NBN rolls out in my area later this year, and I plan to sign up for the biggest, fastest plan you offer. I'm sure there will also be many other shiny, exciting things down the track as well.

Thanks for being awesome iiNet. Here's to many more happy years together!

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