The name change saga(part 1)

Ever since I got married (actually starting sometime before) people have been asking me if I am going to change my name.  Many of these were more toward the assumption I would than not- “hey, so what’s your new name?”.  This was a surprise to me, as I hadn’t considered it much, I had somewhat assumed that it was remaining the same.  Silly me.

See- we got married

I should have remembered my earlier opinion of Brisbane- living in the 50s as far as domestic life is concerned.  Anyway, as a result of subtle and not so subtle pressures I decided to change my name and become a hyphenate.  I thought this was a rather elegant solution, but it was not to be.

Signing the marriage certificate/register

For all that people assume that you can simply change your name upon marriage by waving that pretty little certificate around, you can’t.  I was already aware of some of the pitfalls, I do work in an industry that is subject to those nasty Anti-Money Laundering rules, and I do understand the need for proper certified documents.  But I had not anticipated the lengths to which I was required to go.

We even had witnesses!

We’ll start with the fact that I was married overseas.  Turns out that an awful lot of places (including the people who organise driver’s licences) don’t accept overseas marriage certificates- even the official ones. ( Hey NZ, Queensland’s Department of Transport thinks you are dodgy!) Then I went to change my passport, thinking if the Australian Government accepts who I am, Queensland will have to.

See- all married- and at the top of a mountain

Now if I change my passport within 12 months of marriage, it’s free.  My boss told me about that as his wife missed the deadline by 3 weeks.  Given that passports are around $200, I want the free one.  Enter my second mistake- being born overseas.

It turns out that because I only have a citizenship certificate, and not an Australian Birth certificate, I have to officially register my change of name.  This is getting a little complex. Not sure I understand precisely why, but what it all boils down to is identity theft and fraud.  There was some, and whoever was in charge decided the best way to slow people down when taking a new name was to impose this very painful process.

it was a little windy

How does one register a change of name?  By supplying an insanely long list of documents, completing a painfully repetitive form and handing over $135. Ouch, and we haven’t even started on the documents. My citizenship certificate, my birth certificate, my passport, my driver’s licence and a bank card or other government issued identification and a letter from my employer certifying I have been living in the state for the past 12 months.  They sit on all this documentation for 5 weeks and give me a change of name certificate, which I will then shove in the face of anybody so foolish as to question my name.

If I had known what a major pain this was going to be, I wouldn’t have changed.  My problem is, I have changed it already in a few places, and the process of unchanging is equally bad.  Generally they will require a decree nisi(which I don’t have because we aren’t divorced, nor are we planning to) or an official change of name certificate (see above for that process).

I do foresee a growing trend to retain names however, if my experience becomes the norm.

And I haven’t even started on my US and UK passports.

Memories of traveling

Today’s post is the result of reading about good customer service, and having flashbacks to Japan.  It isn’t really about customer service, but more about traveling and how randomly nice people can be.

Back in February 2003 I moved to Japan to teach english.  This was on the whole a good experience, but the first couple of months were hard.  I wasn’t teaching in a school, it was a business operation that offered 40 minute ” conversation” classes to people of all ages.  You had no set classes, and no way of knowing who you would be teaching the next day. This meant a lot of improvisation, and was quite difficult in the beginning.  Add in really really cold weather (I had just come from summer in Australia) and a roommate who hated her job (same place I was ) and hated Japan. Plus, all of the normal people where I worked didn’t get along with my roommate (“evil roomy” – name changed to protect me from lawsuits) so no one spoke to me much for a few weeks.

Anyway, in April I had a 3 day weekend(courtesy of a shift swap), and decided to make the most of it.  I planned a  trip to Nikko, a tourist attraction not too far away.  It could have been a day trip, especially if I had a car, but I decided to put several things into place.

I started with a trip to Mito, for some yummy Cinnabon and Starbucks goodness.  I then caught a teeny tiny rural line to a town called Mashiko.  Mashiko is famous for pottery, so I wandered around the town, looking for the pottery hot spot.  This episode predates my digital camera, and I haven’t scanned the negatives in, so no pictures. It was a weekday, so the town was pretty empty of tourists, so I couldn’t follow anyone.  There was also a lack of obvious places to eat (it is a VERY small town).  Eventually I found a semi open cafe, and the owner tried to explain the food items possible.  She also showed me on the map where the pottery places were, and made sure that I  had a fork to eat my lunch. (not strictly necessary)

After lunch, I wandered down to the pottery area and picked up some nice pieces (still have them today).  At the second place I stopped the owner took me into the back room and let me watch them firing and glazing the pottery ( something that would never happen here due to safety concerns).  She also showed me where some of the stuff in the town brochure was done (traditional firing kilns).  Very friendly and determined that I get the most from my experience.

I am pretty sure I have a picture of me next to the kilns, but no idea where the negatives are.

Next I caught a bus to Utsunomiya, and train from there to Nikko.  Nikko is the place where the first shogun is buried, in a very spectacular temple precinct- very showy, not zen.  It is also the source of the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil monkeys- they are a carving in the temple.

In April, Nikko doesn’t look like much.  here is the view I had while walking to the youth hostel.

The view on the way to the Beatle's playing hostel

The hostel itself was quite nice, apart from the bit where they played Beatles to wake you up in the morning.  I shared a room with two Scandinavian girls.

In the morning I went walking around the temples.  It is in Nikko that I discovered that I am allergic to cedar pollen.  There are many beautiful cedar trees in Nikko, and they were in bloom.  Cue truly awful sinus headache, and there was no pharmacy in the town that I could find.

The temples themselves are pretty cool.

One of the Nikko temple complex buildings

After wandering around, I headed back to the street of town.  (yes there was one street running up through town, with lanes running off it.  It’s a small place)  One of the reasons I went to Nikko on this particular date was to catch a local festival where they parade decorated carts around town with kids playing traditional instruments.  It is a very small festival, all 8 carts of it.  There weren’t many visitors.  Anyway where I was standing to watch it turned out to be one of the stopping points after they had done the circuit of the street.  They pulled up the carts, and started snacking on rice balls and pickles stored at the back of the cart.  One of the guys who had been pulling the cart noticed me and asked if I wanted a picture of me with the cart. Yep

Guess which one is me!

After that I was kind of invited into the party, given a cup of sake and pickles and dried sea creature, while various Japanese people tried to talk to me in English.  It was an experience. The sake helped with the hayfever sinus headache.

I can imagine how foreign tourists would be treated at a local festival in Australia, and sadly it wouldn’t really be a positive experience.  Here I was crashing a festival that was quite local, and they took me in and made me feel like a part of it.  Fun!

That’s it, end of memory lane.  I have started to realise that if I don’t record some of these stories and experiences, I will forget them.

Small pleasures

Things that have made me smile this week.  Sometimes it is the small things that make life good.

A peanut butter Lindt easter egg.  Like Reeses but with much much better chocolate.

Standing at the front of the ferry at night, feeling the wind.

A small child managing to say hello to me on the phone (I must be getting clucky- it was a co-worker’s child, she was trying to distract her and it worked)

Sitting down for dinner at the table (now that I have cleared the piles of stuff that was on it)

Laughing on the phone with my sister about places we went in Japan 5 years ago. Highlight- the coal mining museum with lifesize dioramas!

Fitting the right puzzle pieces into place.

Knowing that today is Friday, and tomorrow is Saturday!

Opinions and the importance of critical thinking

This one has been gestating for a while, and may continue percolating.  I realise that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that on occasion, it may differ from mine.  What irritates me is the lack of thought behind such an opinion.

I believe that it is important to have two sides to the argument- to allow everyone to express their opinion. In fact, it works better that way. Too much of one side of the story unbalances things, and causes more problems.  I think that unions are good- but not when they can steam roller employers and prevent good businesses from continuing.  I think that a business owner has the right to hire and fire as they choose, but they should not be able to abuse their workers beyond a certain point.  Basically I think it is okay to have groups that are more extreme, because they do balance and it is easier to find the balance when there are groups pulling towards the extreme.

A lot of political and economic problems are caused when one opinion gains long term control.  The founding fathers had that one right- Checks and Balances are important. Anyway, so I accept that a variety of opinion is good.  Annoying when not everyone agrees with me, but ultimately not bad.

What gets me is opinion without consideration or thought.  To use the previous concept.  I don’t have a problem when someone says that unions are bad.  I do have a problem when I query why, and the most they can come up with is ” because they are” or ” because A said so”.  Why is critical thought so lacking.

A couple of months ago I attended a focus group.  We were reviewing negative attack ads on the current opposition leader, Tony Abbot. Now I don’t like Tony Abbot, I knew I would not like him, and so I maybe fibbed a little to get in this group.  Which I totally didn’t fit into to.  Apart from the fact everyone else had kids ( i don’t), I was the only one there who had a thinky job.  They were all store clerks, or office processors or importers of fake LCD tvs (yes really).  We were shown a series of attack ads on Tony.

Now, there is a snowballs chance that I will ever vote for him. Exhibit A is the conscience vote he triggered on the morning after pill a few years ago, when his party was in power.  Firstly that just irks me, that he wants to ban the morning after pill (because criminalising abortion even further will do wonders for the health of the nation) and secondly he LOST.  so he had no political vision on this.  I know why i dislike him, and while it may seem irrational to focus on such a small issue, I choose to do so.

Not so the rest of the lovely ladies around the table.

The second ad we saw mentioned that when TA (can’t keep writing his name) was Health Minister he cut funding to hospitals by $1 billion (I think, it’s been a while).  This may be true, but my first instinct on seeing an ad with such a clear cut number is to question what is happening beside that.  If he cut that amount from hospitals, maybe it was transferred to another health area?  Possibly the $1 billion was used to fund, oh I don’t know, children’s immunisation clinics.  I don’t know, but the point is, I highly doubt that the $1 billion was simply cut.  I suspect there is more to the story.  When I tried to articulate this, all I got was blank, uncomprehending stares.  For the rest of the session, they kept harping on about the $1 billion from hospitals.

I mean seriously, none of them could string together the concept that this was a spurious argument.  And we won’t go into the fact none of them knew what the ETS was.

I always considered that a vital part of education was learning critical thinking.  Learning how to say- that is not a fact, that is someone’s opinion- why do they want me to think that way?  (ok oversimplification) I can’t remember when I learned this, but I suspect it started pretty early.  But my parents were not the only ones who taught me.  By high school, there was more than one teacher who pointed out the importance of critical thinking, either directly, or indirectly.

Do they not do this in Australia?  I have to question that, because I do know peoplewho are capable of critical thinking, and I admit that there are an awful lot of Americans who aren’t.

I don’t understand how people can go through life without questioning what they are told.  It puzzles me.  Anyway, time to sleep and maybe my brain will come up with the answer.

New idea

I am borrowing this idea from Allison, as I find it an interesting and challenging project.  Essentially the idea is to have a picture for every day of a year. I have chosen to start from my birthday and document each day of my 33rd year.

I have given myself a couple weeks of lead up time, to see if I could remember to actually take a picture a day, as it has certainly proven difficult in the past.

So, the new blog can be found here:


I stand corrected

Well at least one person reads my posts- Greg has informed me that Star Trek was the original fan fiction show, and one of the early instigators was also a long term president of the fan club and has pretty much set the mold for modern fandom. I don’t have a name, but obviously for those dedicated researchers out there, shouldn’t be too hard to find her. Yes, her.

The other thing I have been called on- apparently there are only 2 made up languages that fans obsess over- Elvish- written by the author, and Klingon.  Which was created for a movie by a linguistics professor.  Who happened to be a big fan and kept on creating a whole extra bit to the language that wasn’t required for the movie. Right.  Like there aren’t any other languages floating out there.

Lest one think that I am anti-geek and anti-fan, exhibit 1- Greg.  I married a geek/sci fi fan, who used to organise cons.  And I like my sci fi and fantasy books and movies.  I just see the weirder side of it as well.

Fan Fiction

No, I am not writing fan fiction.

I never have, but I have certainly read some in my time.  For those who do not know (and there are a lot of people who don’t) fan fiction is an activity whereby you use the characters/setting/worlds of a tv show, movie or book and write your own.  Sometimes they even surpass the original.  Many years ago I read an article that implied Star Trek was one of the original sources of fan fiction, and of the sub genre known as “slash” (not about the GnR guitarist-sorry).

This fascinates me, and also helps demonstrate one my pet theories.  Generally good fan fiction comes from sub par development of tv and movies.  The fans fill in the back stories and lives of their favorite characters. Star Trek- while a revolutionary tv series etc etc, is not the best character development tv show ever.  Hence obsessive fans filled in the gaps.  And since one of my favorite writers (Lois McMaster Bujold) started out her writing life by doing so, I can’t say it is all bad.  In a way I am impressed by the dedication of the people who wrote and “published” these stories- pre web, pre fax and pretty much pre home computer.  They really loved those characters.

But the tv show was cancelled (all the more reason to keep Kirk and Spock going in their imagination)and people found new sources of fan obsessiveness.  Star Wars- another good story that kind of has wooden characters.  Once again- impressed (and disturbed) by the dedication.

Then the internets arrived.  People suddenly found whole groups of people to obsess with- I mean if the collectors of beanie babies could find each other, the people who wrote stories about Kirk and Han solo definitely could. And they found an audience. Boom!

Now there are many sites dedicated to fan fiction now.  More than you want to know.

Slash fiction is primarily about relationships between two male characters as in “Han/Luke”.  For some reason this is really appealing to fan fiction writers, who are mainly straight females.  No, no idea why.  I will comment that women seem to demonstrate their fandom by writing fan fiction, men by dressing up in strange costumes and creating fake languages. Interesting.

One of the theories behind the mostly female writing of slash is it is to give the male characters a fuller emotional life.  I don’t know.  It is not my favoured area of fan fiction, so haven’t really thought much about it.

Anyway there is fan fiction for many things. Dawson’s Creek, Harry Potter, Buffy, and House.  Also  Full House!? Some is good.  Some is written by 13 year old fan girls who don’t understand plot, grammar or spelling.  It hurts the eyes and scars the brain. Some involves relationships that you want to scrub out of your brain with a wire brush. (no not telling you- it hurts.) If you haven’t dipped into this weird world, it can be amusing. No really.  And I think it can help beginning writers learn, up to a point.  After that you really need to write your own characters and your own plot.

I don’t have issues with most of the internet fan fiction writers.  They have a hobby, it isn’t hurting anyone and they freely acknowledge that the characters are not theirs.  Its the legitimised fan fic I have issues with.

You know the spin off novels- the carry ons.  Star Trek has had these for years, they get done for many of the teen and tween shows (we bought Greg’s niece Ava a set of Hannah Montana books for Christmas), and they are used to revitalise the franchise (hello Star Wars and Timothy Zahn).  The problem I have with these is that they really can’t do much with the characters- they have to keep them intact for the next tv season.  At least the fans can write a story where  Mulder and Scully get married in Vegas- the writers of the X files spin off novels can’t interfere with the storyline of the whole series.  It is kind of like the antithesis of fan fiction- the characters have to stay even more flat and wooden than the show or movie  they are based on. Bujold actually has talked about how when she was asked to write an “official” Star Trek novel she turned it down- it’s someone else’s wold, and their rules.

The only place this doesn’t apply is books.  Everyone wants a sequel to Gone with the Wind, or Pride and Prejudice- and because the authors are dead, they get to write what they want.  At least the Tolkien estate was smart. No One can write about Middle Earth.

My current pet peeve is the Pride & Prejudice brigade.  There are some good ones- like Joan Aiken- ho understand the period and the style and manage to write about peripheral characters, yet fill in the lines about the main ones. Then there are the books like the one I bought last week.  Stupid me for not reading enough.  The woman who wrote it started a fan fiction page because she loved the Keira Knightley movie so much she had to continue the story. (Gah, mistake one and two- the movie! and if you are going to write fan fic about a filmed production, at least have the wisdom to write about the Colin Firth mini series! ;-)) Then she got a publishing contract and the book I bought was the second book about the Darcy’s married life. Complete with sex scenes. I can quite put into words why this hurts, but it does.

And it is not the only one- there is a whole industry of people out there writing these books.  Getting the language wrong, and making Elizabeth a feminist ( sorry but she really isn’t) and a whole host of 21st century attitudes.  And so poorly written and observed in comparison to the original.  And they are books. Why? Please leave poor defenseless Jane Austen alone.

Ok-rant over.