Friday, 25 April 2014

Sim City 2000 and the Federal Budget - what I know

Sim City 2000 


Before I launch in to this post, I have a few confessions to make.

First - I HAVE studied economics at University. However. I studied Introduction to Economics 101 and Advanced Economics in the same semester...without ever having considered the wondeful cost/benefit dichotomy before in my life. It was a rough few weeks getting up to speed, let me tell you. What I did learn is that economics is not a perfect science, and that when people say, oh, but you don't understand economics, I can say, well no, not as much as you do, but you know what, there are about 15 brilliant economists out there that wouldn't agree with your conclusion either, and this is why: *insert wonderful summary of brilliant economist opinions here*

I also studied Global Governance, so sometimes I know a little bit about what I'm talking about. I hope this is one of those times.

Second - I loathe the current Federal Goverment, in case you hadn't picked up on that one yet.

Third - SimCity is available for free download. You will thank me later when you finish reading this post.

Alright, let's kick on.

So.

The Federal Budget is about to be handed down amidst a plethora of broken promises and the rumoured gouging of vulnerable persons all over the country. You may be asking yourself, "What's new in politics, Nicole? Politicians do this ad nauseam, every year." You would be right, of course, but what I really want to focus on is something that bugs me about Liberal (big L) governments particularly. I know Tony is going to rip up some really great policies and play havoc with anything that could possible take our country forward, I know. What I'm really pissed about is the absolute bedrock fundamental that is never questioned - the importance of "Putting the Budget Back in to Surplus."

I'm about to make people mad, I can feel it through the keyboard as I type this. Too bad. My blog, not yours.

Household budgets work better in surplus, and everyone has a household budget, so it's relatable when Tony tells us we as a country need to get back to surplus. However, government budgets are not as easy as "I shouldn't buy that juicer at Aldi for $30 this week because I only have $40 to last til Tuesday." Government budgets are immensely complex, and not so relatable to everyone. (In case you were wondering, I have a $30 juicer from Aldi). However, what I do know is that being in surplus for the sake of being in surplus is not always a good thing. Let me explain.

The closest I have come to managing a national budget so far is playing SimCity 2000 - a lot. I'm not too bad at getting my little city growing, I'm pretty good at that actually. However, the first hurdle in the game is that the power plant blows up once it reaches 50 years of age and there is no way to make enough money to replace it before that happens. So you have to take out a loan, or your city runs out of power.

Stay with me here.

Now, the trick to getting to the next stage of the game (where the sims or citizens present you with a statue of yourself because you are such a good mayor) is to make sure your city is in a strong financial position to be able to repay the loan before you take it out. Once you have replaced the power plant, it helps to use a bit of the loan money to increase industry and build export too so that you can continue to make the repayments and grow the city.

Ok, now, Australia.



Australia is a very wealthy nation. We have a strong currency, we have favourable terms of trade with our neighbours, our Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, per capita is higher than most nations comparable to our way of life and, well, that thing called the Global Financial Crisis? Yeh, it didn't even tickle us compared to the rest of the world. I'm not saying we didn't feel it, I am a graduate of 2008 and getting a job was a bitch that year, but we never went in to recession.

Like my little cities in SimCity 2000, Australia has a strong economy. We are not running a budget surplus, but then, the only countries that are in surplus are mostly very small nations very well endowed with natural resources or those sneaky ones that act as tax free havens. Ahem, Kuwait, Hong Kong, Qatar, Angola... Countries we like to think we are comparable to are actually below us on that list; Japan, the US, the UK, New Zealand, Denmark, Canada.
Envious of our budgeting abilities they are.

What I am trying to say is that 'returning to surplus' as a reason in and of itself cannot justify cuts to services the public very much need, nor is it a good enough basis to make major policy decisions on. Why? Because economic growth is the point, closing the gap in the deficit by increasing GDP over time is how you do it, and taking on loans is ok so long as you are using that money on worthwhile projects that will have a tangible impact on growth.

Good example of a worthwhile thing: connecting people to super-fast broadband.

Bad example of a worthwhile thing: Robert Mugabe's $1 million dollar celebration of his 90th birthday paid for by his government.

We are doing very well despite running a deficit of -1.3% of our GDP, and the trend is not heading backwards. Inflation is low, unemployment relatively low too, and we can make the repayments without having to raise taxes any more than inflation would normally dictate.

So please, Tony, give us the real reasons you are making cuts. I couldn't give two figs if the budget doesn't return to surplus for another two or three years, hell take ten if you need!

If running a moderate deficit means we can afford nationally beneficial things like more NBN, better Medicare and a strong military, then as a responsible government, that is what you need to do, not pay back loans to spite our own growth.

You won't get any statues from your sims doing that.







Sunday, 20 April 2014

Jumping up and down on one leg

...is quite tricky.

Especially when the leg you aren't jumping on is in a dirty great big brace.

Looks something like this:

     O
 \    l  /
      l_____
    /
    \

Do people even draw those anymore?

Well, luckily the jumping up and down I am doing is metaphorical or I would need another knee reco.

Why am I metaphorically jumping up and down on one leg? Because apart from the fact that I like to keep my metaphors as close to reality as possible (and as we all know two legged jumping is quite impossible for me at the moment) one legged jumping is by far more challenging and less coordinated, much like my campaign to get other women to write application letters to Tony for the Minister for Women job.

As much as I love the internet (and I do interwebs, you are just ace) I kinda get the feeling that getting in contact with famous people was a whole lot easier when telephone books were still regarded as tomes of information rather than shrink wrapped door stops delivered annually. You could even call information and they would give you someones details, as long as you asked nicely.

These days, there is Twitter. There is Facebook. There is LinkedIn. There are several official and unofficial websites with dodgy email addresses for just about anybody who has ever been in a commercial. The worst part is, there is no way of knowing if the person you are trying to contact is behind any of those cyber doors at all. There might be a public relations agent busy filing all the incoming requests in to the "Nah" pile, but cracking a genuine response seems to be akin to wishing for the Pope to become a Protestant.

Which is why I was bowled over to get what I am fairly certain was a human generated response from a station I contacted last night. I am easily over excited, so I won't get too far in to it, but wow, you mean someone read my long form email? And REPLIED?

May I just say, to all those who are Public Relations agents, ha! I got one! Also, may I now humbly beg for your assistance. Andy Warhol may have been the prophet, the interwebs may be the medium through which his prophecy is fulfilling itself, but god damn this viral thing is not as easy as filming your baby brother doing something dumb if your message has a coherent structure.

Here's to my leg getting better at lightning speed so I may jump up and down on two legs sooner.









Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Dear Prime Minister: About that other job you have






















To the current Federal Minister for Women, Tony Abbott.
Parliament House
Canberra, ACT


Dear Sir,

I wish to apply for one of the positions you currently hold in the Federal cabinet, namely that of Minister for Women.

There has been much comment about your suitability for the position since you appointed yourself to this role last year, and frankly, I just want to let you know that I understand how hard it is to get good staff. I can see why you passed over Senator Michaelia Cash for the top job (you're a feminist and she's not for one thing) and with no other women in the cabinet in which to turn to (apart from Julie, but she's pretty busy), I can understand how you ended up with the job. One employer to another Tony, I would like to offer you a few alternative candidates, starting with myself, so that you can finally fill the role properly, instead of temping it yourself (a rather drastic cost cutting measure to be honest, you don't have to balance the budget single handedly you know).

As a woman, I have a wealth of experiences that would make me an ideal candidate; below are a few particularly relevant skills and experiences that I feel will help you see me as a top candidate.

- I was born and raised as a girl, and as such was exposed to gendered stereotypes from a young age. Having been immersed in subtle media messages about how society expects my gender to behave all my life, I feel that I am well equipped to help other young girls and women navigate this minefield.

- I started work as a woman and continue to recognise myself as female in the workplace. This has often put me in awkward or unfair situations which I have had little power to change, especially when starting out as a teenager. By drawing on this experience, I can offer accurate advice on workplace equality issues and lead reform.

- I enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force as a woman and served as a female officer for 2 years. The military has a long way to go when it comes to engendered stereotyping and acceptable behaviour. I feel I can closely associate with the experiences of women in the ADF and would be honoured to use the knowledge gained in this area to help others.


Please keep in mind that I am not the only person I know who would be suitable for the role - be assured I will forward more candidates as I find them for your consideration. I would also urge you to consider employing a new Minister for Women sooner rather than later as there has been little movement in this area since your appointment last year and you must be getting awfully tired of trying to do a good job of something you have no experience in.

Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to corresponding further.


Regards,


Nicole Arby


Going Viral - Andy Warhol was Right

"In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes" 
Andy Warhol Exhibit, Sweden, 1968


You may not believe me, but you and I, we will eventually go viral.

While you may not know what is going to make the internet go crazy for you just yet, I'm already working out what I'm going to do with my 15 minutes of fame. You see, I think Andy Warhol's little sound bite about fame has finally blossomed. The future he was talking about is now. Has been for a while actually. So, when it's your turn, what are you going to be known for?

I am unashamedly political, it's true. I don't understand why more people aren't, to be honest, but then I enjoy debate. I like turning over ideas, finding fallacies in arguments, finding new points of view, nutting out what values I have in common with other human beings and wondering how they hold true values I don't agree with. Oh, it's simply fascinating! What really drives me mad is that so many people prefer to "keep the peace" and not argue at all, even if "the peace" actually suppresses them. Hence why I relish any chance to rock the boat and maybe wake up a few non-politicals for the 15 minutes I'm going to be famous.

You may have seen my little post on Facebook a week ago about applying to be the Federal Minister for Women (I say this not because my post went viral on Facebook - ha- but because I know it's only you Facebook friends that read this here blog J). I tagged some really great, gutsy, intelligent women in that post hoping they would apply alongside me for the role. What actually happened was they were all very flattered, but said, "Nic, you would make a great Minister!" Thanks for the feel-good girls, but that wasn't the reaction I was hoping for. You see, I wanted to start something. And I accidentally almost did. Again, it wasn't the reaction I was hoping for, but it could have made me go viral for all the wrong reasons.

On the night of the 13th of April, as promised in my Facebook post, I launched the ad for
Now Hiring: Minister for Women Job Application Challenge
I set up a Seek account for employers, had fun writing the position description and swallowed the fee for posting it. Then I shut my laptop, ate dinner, did my physic exercises and went to bed.

Screen shot of the Google result - the only proof I have left


Next day, while wondering why I can't see my ad anywhere on the site, I get a call from Seek. A lovely woman on the other end of the phone was kindly asking to speak to Nicole about whether the position was legitimate. I said yes, of course, it's a real job. She sweetly enquired whether I was allowed to advertise it. I asked why. Apparently they had received complaints about it not being real. Oooh! I thought. Complaints! Yay! I sensed she was actually on my side despite the fact that she worked for Seek and had to toe the company line, so I let her in on what I was trying to do. She said she really liked the idea, she even liked the ad itself, but sorry, she still had to take it down, ACCC and all that. I wasn't charged the posting fee and I felt like I had an ally out there somewhere in Seek.com, but I had thoroughly flopped at going viral.

Right.

Regroup.

My next action plan is to just apply for the damn job myself. Maybe I should keep applying and applying and applying and applying, emailing the hell out of Tony til he takes notice, a la the wonderful Dear John letters Richard Berry wrote to John Howard every week for four years (he was eventually asked to stop writing to the Prime Minister after a few years. I give Tony 2 weeks). Oh, and I would happily lend the book to you, but I don't know where it is...

I used to own this book...


Stand by for my draft application. You will all get to proof read it, maybe add some vitriol, correct my grammar a little, argue over whether my experience as a waitress is really relevant (oh it is, let me tell you) and then I will post it to Tony, the current Minister for Women.






Saturday, 12 April 2014

Part 2: After - Peace, drugs and knee reconstructions


Oh geeze.

On Thursday night I got in a few last boogies on the dance floor with my munted knee, before Friday dawned with the operation in tow. It wasn't pretty to watch, but I danced for all the times I'm not going to be dancing in the next 3 or 4 months. I drank, I stayed up late, I crashed at my friend's house.  All in the name of capturing as much fun as possible before hobbledness set back in.

The operation itself apparently went fine. My hamstring was 'harvested' and shaped in to a new ACL for me so I can eventually walk without a wobble. The anaesthetic though, woo, is it weird stuff. I have only ever been under once before and immediately after waking up, I started dialling people. I don't usually drink and dial but I do love a chat when I'm only half conscious. Quinn, if you are reading this, I'm so glad you called! I can't remember a word we said, but it made me happy to garble at you down the phone :)

Peace, drugs and knee reconstructions
Mystery lump of meat
I'm at home now, after a much less fun night of staying up late in hospital. Already Mum and I are tackling my physio exercises. So far the hard drugs haven't really been needed, but I have them on stand by...oh yes.

Thanks for all the well wishes folks, they made me smile and feel a bit more connected to the world outside the ward.

Expect more blog posts now that I'm less mobile.

Peace out.



















Thursday, 10 April 2014

Part 1: Before


A few days ago, I was trying not to be a burden.

I thought I would be all cool to get myself to the hospital, check myself in, wait around by myself for hours, then finally follow the nurse in to the theatre waiting room and have knee surgery, all by myself.

I really honestly thought it would be better for me to slug it out solo and try and be brave about it, than ask my Mum, my brother, my friends or anyone to help me out. They're busy people, and I hate to make other people change plans around me.

Reading that last paragraph back to myself I realise two things: first, that I am unbelievably independent, to the point where it's a negative, and second, that I'm very glad my bestie told me to call my Mum the other night.

You win that round D.

Right now I am waiting for my Mum to come and pick me up and take me to the hospital. She's going to wait with me and be there when I wake up too. I don't feel like a burden any more, because really, I was a bit scared of doing it alone.

Being an inconvenience sucks, but I am going to have to get used to it because after the knee op, I won't be doing much by myself at all. Just going to the kitchen to make a cup of tea will be an extremely taxing effort. No independent tea making for a few weeks then.

Part two later today - off to the hospital for me!







Tuesday, 8 April 2014

How my blog will save the world.


Well, maybe not all the world, but I'd settle for Australia at least.

It's really easy to think that what you say online doesn't matter. I mean the internet is expanding at a rate comparable to that of the universe itself! Who cares what one little blogger has to say, right?

WRONG.

There's this theory - I like to think of it as the critical mass or snowball theory, and it's the reason that my blog is going to help save the world.

Picture courtesy of criticalmass.wikia.com


It goes something like this:

When an idea or product reaches a critical mass, it will eventually spill over in to general acceptance. Wikipedia uses the example of the fax machine. I'm going to use women's right to vote.

For example: no one would now question the fact that both men and women are entitled to vote, but just over 100 years ago, this may have been a hotly contested point. It took quite a while for men to accept this and for it to become the societal norm, but hey, it did.

I feel that gay marriage is finally reaching that tipping point in to general acceptance. Maybe not everywhere, but definitely in pockets of the West at least. I saw a really good example of this on my Facebook feed only this week.

Mozilla, who make the browser Firefox, have just fired their new CEO. Why? Because he is against gay marriage and is generally regarded as a bigot by those who work for him.

From the article: "There was a time when supporting gay marriage made you a radical. Then there was a time when it made you a progressive. Now we’ve reached a point where not supporting gay marriage makes you unfit to lead a major Silicon Valley organisation."

Ouch.

So, now that we all understand tipping points, let's get back to saving the world shall we?

The reason I am going to keep blogging and adding my little grains of sand to the debates happening around me is because I have all-of-a-sudden come to a realisation that my voice counts. Not because I am anyone special, but because I need other people like me to know that I am one of them. I'm on their side. I am thinking the same thoughts as them and getting super mad about the things they are super mad about too.

We have now reached the tipping point in this blog post where I feel the need to declare where I stand on a few issues so that you, dear reader, will know if you and I are on the same team. I feel that we could be already if you have read this much, so feel free to rejoice in the following:

Renewable energy - it's not a "Greenie" thing to do, it's not an out there future policy or technology, it's a smart move that will a) save us money in the long run and b) conserve what little natural resources we have left. Stop dicking around and get on with it.

Dumping shit in the Great Barrier Reef. Really? I have been learning about 'the environment' since I was a little tacker in grade 1. We were taught about recycling and pollution and all that stuff. I went to a government state school. I grew up on the Queensland coast. Tell me how I am not meant to care about this issue when the very government that is screwing up our World Heritage Listed icon is the same government that taught me to look after it. 

Gay marriage is not so scary and if it scares you, you probably aren't gay so it's not going to affect you anyway. Find something else to argue about.

Racism makes me sick. I have had several awesome conversations with my good friend Beti. She was born in the US but is of Kenyan heritage. She's from a upper middle class background, her dad is a uni professor and her mum is, um, I'm not sure, but she doesn't like swear words... Anyway. Beti was telling me about the conversation all black American dads have to have with their sons. It goes like this: If you are ever approached by a policeman for ANY reason, do exactly as you are told and say nothing. Do not ask questions, do not resist at all. If you do, you may be shot.

Um, what? Does any white person reading this even know this is a thing?

Trayvon Martin's death was not an awful inconsistency in police attitudes towards Black Americans. It is more than anything a glaring neon sign pointing to the systemic black-phobia still prevalent in the US. Don't even get me started about Australia, you don't have the energy.

These are things that I am mad as hell about. I have decided that I will no longer stew quietly in the corner while things I give a damn about are being wrecked. This blog is one way I am putting myself on the record to say no.

To paraphrase a great quotation - bad things happen when good people stand by and do nothing.

Here's to a critical mass of savvy Gen Yers influencing general acceptance now and in another hundred years' time.




Saturday, 5 April 2014

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery



I am a starter, but I am definitely not a finisher.

On my bedroom wall I have a list of all the projects I have started or joined in the last 12 months or so. There are 11 official entries:

1) My job hunting website idea I Don't Want a Desk Job (complete with half started blog, business plan and investor guide)
2) my book and the hashing out of the plot
3) my photo business CanDo Photography and the 3 derivatives thereof
4) my business contribution to CamperStar
5) my participation in the fundraising committee for Suited to Success
6) my hosting status as the Brisbane Girl Gone International representative
...you get the idea.

People tend to admire, even envy, my ability to come up with ideas. That may sound vain, and maybe it is, but to me ideas are everywhere. Everywhere! My mind constantly whirrs with little snippets of information that often come together to show me a new way of looking at something. A new opportunity. A better way of doing a task. A novel attraction. Did I mention I have so far built two of the 26 letters of the alphabet out of ply wood and made mini golf courses out of them? I have.

The letter I


I want all my half started ideas to become great successes. Really truly. Unfortunately I am plagued by Post Idea Depression or PID. Similar to Post Natal Depression in which the mother fails to bond with her child, I similarly fail to see the value in my idea a few days after it has been spawned. It is devastating and debilitating and I don't know what to do about it.

Well, I do. I just - oh I have another idea! Listen to this!

And so it goes.

Just yesterday I started another new thing. I am calling it 12) Now Hiring: Minister for Women Job Application Challenge. It sprung from the deeply disgruntled blog draft I started a week ago and, predictably, never published. The post focussed on activism, and why protesting 21st century issues using 20th century ideas is basically dead energy (there, I said it). The project itself is to get a woman in to the role of Federal Minister for Women. Can you believe this is something we need to campaign for?! WTF doesn't even begin to explain where my boggled mind is at on this one. Anyway, I am still in the honeymoon phase. I still love the idea and I'm anxious about the come down.

So here is my plan to see this idea through:

I am having knee surgery next week. I won't be able to work and I definitely won't be able to walk for a good week afterwards. I am going to work on my latest idea, Minister for Women, all week. Even if I end up hating it and thinking it's the dumbest thing ever, I am going to work on it ALLL WEEEK.

Any support or tips much appreciated.

Please let me know if you too suffer from PID. I can't be the only one.


Ps. In case you were curious what the rest of my uncompleted projects are, here you go:

7) Build an alphabet mini golf course
8) Study for my Masters of Sustainability part time
9) Keep a visual record of all street art I see on my Facebook page Street Art Curator
10) Finish my correspondence interior design course
11) Complete the knotted rug made from old t-shirts I started for my lounge room