30 September 2007

Spring is definitely here

It wasn't all that long ago that I was wearing three layers of clothes even during the warmest part of the day. I've hardly worn a shirt this weekend.

There are other signs that it's now spring. Most of the trees are either in flower or they've changed to a pale colour as the new shoots come out. This is great news for the possums as they love both. Every afternoon we go out in the yard and cut bits off the trees to feed Mogwai and Lucky. The neighbours must be starting to think we're really obsessed with pruning.

Spring also means that the young possums born this winter are starting to become more independent. I spent most of yesterday afternoon reassembling an aviary for Lucky to move into. We already have one set up for Mogwai and he's been having a look around in there each evening for the past week. He'll most likely move in next weekend. He also gets to play on the clothes line each evening, so he gets some practice climbing around and gets some exercise.

There's also more activity in the bird world at the moment. We're starting to hear the young noisy miners squarking for food. In a month or two that will become really annoying because they just don't stop. This is also the season when a lot more birds come into care because they've fallen out of nests or whatever.

I'm still waiting to see my first dollar bird for this year. They're usually doing their aerobatics around the back yard in the early evening at this time of the year.

Spring is also a good time to start new things. Donna started blogging recently. She's been following mine for ages and finally decided to give it a go herself. She's discovering it's not as hard as she thought. She finds herself planning her next entry in her head while she sits on the back verandah with a drink in the evening. Something I can relate to, and I'm sure other bloggers can too.

I hate statistics

I may have mentioned it before, but statistics is the worst subject ever to be inflicted on a student. It's even worse than maths.

If you google the phrase, "I hate statistics", you'll come up with all sorts of blogs and other websites written by people that teach the subject. They'll go on about the fact that, most people that hate statistics do so because they aren't very good at maths, or aren't that interested in maths.

No, the reason most people hate statistics is because it's taught by people who have such a twisted personality they actually enjoy it. This twist also renders them incapable of realising that, those of us that hate statistics, are going to have great difficulty learning it if all the textbooks and study notes are written as though we all love it.

No matter how much people try to justify the reasons for people hating statistics, it's not going to change the fact that the majority of statistics and maths teachers are incapable of teaching.

Even the book "Statistics for the Utterly Confused" causes my eyes to glaze over as soon as I start to read it.

Now I realise that having an understanding of stats is necessary in science. Scientists gather and interpret data from their experiments. What I don't understand is why I can't just put the data into a program on my computer, tell it what I want to do with that data, then get easy to interpret results. No, I basically have to learn to be a computer programmer to get the software to analyse the data. If I do something wrong, I get a completely meaningless error message that is useless to me. What the hell does "NaNs produced" mean?

You're probably wondering why I'm ranting on about stats. I'm supposed to be working on an assignment and I'm stuck. This is the fourth one for this subject and there are two more after this one. This is the third time I've attempted the subject, the other two times I pulled out early enough to avoid failing. The lecturer this time is at least a lot better than the previous two, but that still doesn't make it any easier to learn. It's still a crap subject taught my someone who enjoys maths.

What I'd like to see in a stats class is the data on how many people fail statistics and what majors those people are doing.

Did I mention that I hate statistics?

29 September 2007


I've been following the events in Burma just recently.

For those that don't know, Burma is bordered by Thailand, China, India and Bangladesh. There are probably a lot of allied soldiers from world war two that owe their lives to the people of Burma, just as many soldiers owe their lives to the people of PNG during the same war.

So how are we repaying them for that help? Well, we aren't really. While the regime there are opening fire on democracy protesters with live amunition, all our government can do is tighten visa restrictions on certain members of the regime.

It's been suggested that if Burma had oil the yanks would have troops there by now, they'd find some bogus excuse to go in, just as they did in Iraq.

If you want to see what's actually going on over there, have a look at Ko Htike's blog. Be warned though, it's not for the faint hearted. Some of the images there are quite disturbing. The stories and pictures on the blog are supplied by ordinary people, like you and I, that are risking their lives to get the message out. Something that's even harder to do now that the regime have cut off the internet in Burma.

27 September 2007

Playing with our balls at work

One of the things our performance at work is measured on is the number of missed calls.

If we're all busy and there are no agents available a missed call goes through to message bank. We try to keep the number of missed calls down to below five percent of the total calls. If it stays up for too long it usually means we need to employ another operator, or we're all being slack.

Now, someone has to get the messages off the message bank and this causes problems. It usually falls to one person to do it, and that usually means they're the one doing all the call backs too. It gets a bit unfair, especially if we're busy or the database crashes (that happens all too regularly) as there will often be quite a few messages to reply to and one person doing them.

Yesterday our team leader came up with a solution. He grabbed an orange stress ball, wrote "message ball" on it, and we use it like a baton.

The idea is, whoever has the ball is responsible for getting the messages off. If you have more than one message you pass the others clockwise around the room, along with the ball. That way the job gets shared around. You don't have to bother with rosters that get all confused when someone is off sick or on leave, which sometimes happens with other duties we perform. You just pass the ball.

Such a simple solution.

25 September 2007

Three years and counting

I'm sitting on our back verandah as I type this. Three years ago I was sitting out here with friends and family celebrating the fact that, Donna and I had just become husband and wife.

Yes, today is our third anniversary.

As I look back over the time since we first met back in November 2001, I'm amazed at how much we've done together in such a short time. Donna had never been overseas before we met, we've since been to New Zealand and Vietnam and we're off to Britain, and quite likely a bit of Europe, in the new year. Donna's been up in light aircraft, ridden on a motorbike, had good... we won't go into that, seen a lot more of Australia than she'd seen before and tried a few other things that she wouldn't have tried without a bit of a push from someone that had the utmost confidence in what I thought she might be capable of. With Donna's support, there's been a lot of things I've done since we met too. I wouldn't be half way through a science degree without her help.

I've been lucky enough to have married someone that has put up with the fact that, because I was single for so long, I come across as being a bit of a selfish bastard. A singly, as my mate Tony used to put it.

I just read that bit to her and she giggled.

Anyway, we're now planning our next big adventure, our trip to Britain at the end of the year. It's something we're both really looking forward to. From Donna's point of view, she wants to see where I was born and where I went to school, and meet the relatives (of which I have a hell of a lot) that she hasn't yet met. From my point of view it's a case of sharing part of my life experience, and showing her a part of what I'm all about.

What Donna is really looking forward to is spending new year's eve in an English pub, and going outside to see snow falling. I can't guarantee that (the snow bit), but I know a couple of great country pubs in Hertfordshire (where I'm from) that she'll really love. We're taking our darts with us too.

We're hoping to see a bit of Ireland as well, since Donna's family has some Irish heritage and I've always wanted to see more of the British Isles, never having been further north in England than

Hopefully, next year we'll spend some time down around the Murray river since Donna is also descended from the Yulupna tribe in that area about four generations back.

Either way, we'll always be trying new experiences, whether it be visiting places like Vietnam, which we did in January of this year, or looking after wild animals, like the possums we have in our care.

I've known a few people that have retired from the jobs that they've had for three or four decades. Within six months of retiring, they've died because they had nothing to live for, but work. That will never happen to us, there's nothing surer than that.

22 September 2007


We've been talking about it for a while, going to England for a holiday.

Donna wants to see the area where I was born, and do the things that most Aussies want to do in England, drink in a pub and see and old castle.

So, this morning I booked the tickets.

We're leaving at the end of December, just after Christmas and coming back in the first week of February. It struck me as we were talking about it after I booked, that that's only three months away.

Now to start letting the family over there know we're coming.

16 September 2007

Fess up

OK, come on fess up.

Which of my rellies is the frequent visitor via my mum and dad's blog? It's you Annabelle isn't it?

Drop me an e-mail at sdporter at tpg.com.au.

Psycho possum eats man's brain

I'm not sure exactly what Mogwai was doing here, but it didn't tickle.

It's not like I've got nits or anything like that, and my hair was clean as I'd washed it that morning. Although, there may have been a few bits of flower in my hair from the afternoon when I was collecting their food from some of our trees.

Every afternoon one of us goes out in the yard with one of those secateur on a pole things and cuts the best looking flowers we can find. The best ones always seem to be the highest up in the tree. Being spring here now, we have plenty to chose from. Most of the calistemons, grevilleas and banksias are in flower. In fact, most of them look more red than green at the moment.

Invariably, when getting flowers out of the tree, you end up with bits of tree showering down on you, so maybe that's what Mogwai was after. Then again, perhaps he is just a psycho, brain eating demon (Mogwai is chinese for demon).

I also have a couple of holes on my belly where he jumped from Donna to me last night, while we were both standing up.

Oh the joys of being a carer.

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13 September 2007

Sick again

I'm off work sick at the moment.

It's nothing serious, but when your throat feels like you've swallowed a razor blade and y.our main job involves talking on the phone all day, you can understand why I'm at home.

We have an agreement here. If you're taking the day off sick, you ring work and tell them yourself. That way you're less likely to take a sickie. The trouble is, when you have a really sore throat and don't want to talk, you really don't want to be ringing the boss. I couldn't be bothered arguing with Donna about it, for obvious reasons, so I switched on the laptop and e-mailed my boss instead.

Anyway, the throat feels like I've swallowed gravel now, which means I can do a Lee Marvin impersonation and sing "Wanderin' Star" in the correct key. See, there's a positive in everything.

By the time I get back to work on Monday, I should be well into the runny nose and hacking cough stage. It's lucky my desk faces the corner away from everyone. At least I won't be coughing in their direction.


Donna had her first job interview in about eighteen years on Monday.

Out of about eighty applicants for the job at a wine merchant's, only three were interviewed. She got the call today to say she'd been unsuccessful, the woman that got the job actually had experience in the wine industry. They want to hang on to her resume though, in case it doesn't work out with the other woman. So I guess that means she came second.

Needless to say, it's done wonders for Donna's confidence. She's only applied for two jobs so far, and only just missed out on one of them. So I don't think she'll have to much trouble finding something. She can afford to be a bit picky too, as she's still getting casual hours from her old employer.


While I've been home this week I haven't sat idle, well not very.

I finally got around to registering on Facebook. Would you believe, there are 253 Steve Porters on Facebook, and every single on of us are good looking. Okay, I lied about the good looking bit.

We've also been busy with the animals.

Donna was out with Jess yesterday looking for an apartment to rent. While they were out, Jess got a call from BARN to go and pick up an injured ringtail possum. So now we have three possums to look after, although the ringtail will probably be released back into the wild this weekend. That should be interesting as it will be our first release.

I mentioned the other day that Lucky, one of the brushtails is suffering from a rash. Well he had a bath today. He's still complaining about it now, an hour later.

Edit: 14:20pm

An update on the ringtail. He sadly died this afternoon. Just one of the things you have to accept as a carer and something we'll see a lot more of.

10 September 2007


When I was growing up, a servo (service station) wasn't just somewhere you bought your petrol and ciggies ( a good mix), you could get your car serviced there too. Not only that, but the guy that owned the business probably knew you and your car as well.

Well, there's not as many petrol selling places where you can get your car fixed these days. You either take your car back to the dealer and get it done properly (but pay a lot for it), take it to somewhere like K-Mart Auto (and pay a lot for it, but not necessarily get it fixed), or search out an old fashioned servo and get it done properly at a reasonable price.

Sarah's been having trouble with her Daewoo Nubira just lately, it's been running really rough. She took it to K-Mart Auto to get it serviced and they replaced her spark plugs and HT leads and did a few other things, recommended a few things, and charged her about $500.

Not long after that, the car started running rough again, so her grandad and I replaced the fuel filter (one of the things they recommended). A couple of days later it was playing up again, so Donna rang up K-Mart Auto, told them the problem and Sarah took the car in for them to have another go at fixing it.

The verdict? One of the spark-plugs they'd put in was faulty.

I used to have a Daihatsu Charade that had a similar problem. My local servo back then had replaced the HT leads, but when it played up again and one of the plugs looked stuffed, they correctly surmised that the reason the brand new plug was the way it was, was because one of the brand new HT leads was stuffed.

I started to suspect that maybe they hadn't installed a faulty plug, they were just clutching at straws.

Now there's a servo about five minutes drive from us, near the Wellington Point railway station. it's one of those old style servos where they actually come out and pump the juice for you. The last time I had that done was in Gatton about two years ago, and before that, I can't really remember. That used to be what service meant.

Anyway, Donna used to get her car serviced at the place in Wello, and whenever we drive past there on a week day, there's always a heap of cars parked out the front waiting to be worked on. A good indication of its popularity. So Donna rang them up and got Sarah's car booked in for this morning.

The verdict? It was the ignition module. It was that that caused the plugs to fail. Not only that, but a couple of the plugs were cracked, because whoever worked on it before had done them up too tight and broken the insulation. Oh, and the new HT leads were cheapies too.

If you're having trouble with your car, try and find the little servo in the backstreet that looks a bit like a museum piece and has a heap of cars parked out the front every day. There's a reason all those cars are parked there. You might notice, it's a different bunch of cars each day too.

Oh, and Donna hadn't taken her car there for a few years, but Geoff (or is it Jeff?), the owner, still remembered her.

08 September 2007

Cute, furry little critters

I couldn't resist posting this picture of Lucky as a reminder to check out my wildlife carer blog, where you'll find a picture of Mogwai.

The possum in the pocket is Mogwai as well.

Aren't they cute.

06 September 2007

Stressed moggy

It seems Dizzy the evil cat may be suffering from stress.

She's been having trouble just lately with, what appeared to be, a bladder infection. I can relate to that. She'd been spending a lot of time in her litter tray and out in the yard just trying to pee and not having much luck. What did come out had a bit of blood in it.

The vet gave her some antibiotics a week or so ago and that seemed to help. He asked at the time if she seemed to be stressed at all, and Donna replied that she didn't, but did stress the dog a lot.

Anyway, Donna noticed yesterday that Dizzy was spending a lot of time in the yard looking like she was trying to pee, so we decided to take her to the vet's the next day (today).

While I was sitting out on our back verandah early yesterday evening she was lying on my lap asleep, Dizzy that is, not Donna. I got up to go inside for something and noticed a dark patch on my jeans. I'm getting used to animals leaking on me. Forty-five minutes later she was in the vet surgery being examined again.

The vet had a look at her, asked again about stress and let her get back in her carry box. While he was discussing what the problem could be, and the fact that he'd like her to stay overnight for observation and to get a clean sample of urine out of her with a needle, she let go in the box. There was a mad dash to get her out before she got it all over her as she was lying down at the time, then we all grabbed paper towels to clean up after her.

She should be home again tonight hopefully. She'll either have a course of a different antibiotic, if it turns out to be a bacterial infection, or something to calm her down if it turns out to be stress.

I can't get this image out of my mind of a doped up Dizzy lounging around the house, giving people peace signs and disappearing when Carla, the ex-sniffer dog, comes to visit.

02 September 2007

Father's Day

It's father's day today, or at least it is in Australia, I think it's on a different date in other parts of the world.

Anyway, instead of driving all the way over to Mum and Dad's place to see them, we decided to invite everyone over to our place for lunch. We've had a lot of renovations done in the last year or so and Mum and Dad haven't seen what's been done. We also thought it would be a good chance for my nieces to see the animals.

My brother Laurie has a black labrador called Carla. Carla was a customs sniffer dog in training, but she dropped out of sniffer dog school so now she's a family pet. She loves to travel in the car, so Laurie asked if they bring her over as well.

At one stage I looked out the backdoor while they were here and she was standing on the verandah all wet. We found out something about Carla today, she likes to swim. We always joke about sitting in the pond on a hot day, but only Carla has ever been for a swim in there.


I decided to put an Adsense banner on my new blog today, like the one I've got on here.

Because I've mentioned bladder troubles a couple of times, most of the ads that have been coming up have been related to that. If I start mentioning SCUBA diving a lot, it'll start showing ads for SCUBA diving.

When I put the banner on the other blog most of the ads were for possum traps and pest control, not really the sort of thing that fits. I've put a Google search box on there instead.