Category Archives: Aspects of Australia

Goodbye face to face interviewer job

My face to face interviewer job ended last year. Rounding off the saga, I’d like to summarise what it was about, and speculate about why, overall, it worked well.

I was quite good at the job, and feel I’ve learned a lot, even though the work was quite repetitive. My boss was happy about my work and communication, and I had plenty of positive feedback from respondents both directly and through the quality control procedures. My response rates were also pretty good – not remarkable compared to the average, but good factoring in that my home range was supposedly hard to get decent results in. I was praised for the quality of my submitted work – data forms and weekly reports – for high accuracy, good order, and entertaining weekly reports.

Australian road from front window of car

The job ended because my employer had lost their tender for the project, so they had to close the whole project department down and sack everyone involved in the project… That’s all the interviewers, the office staff, and even my lovely boss.

If was a much bigger collapse for some of the other people, than it was for me. The staff turnover was notoriously low among both the office staff and the interviewer crew, and some had been working on the project for  well over a decade – almost since the beginning.

The organisation is the best employer I’ve had, and they handled the close-down well too. There was a proper explanation of what had happened (as much as they knew), scenario-thinking and instructions for what was and wasn’t allowed if moving to the competitor, and there was the usual supportive attitude underpinning the process. My boss also gave everybody her personal email and phone number, so future employers could still contact her for recommendations when she would no longer be working there.
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The Ocean Pool

Mahoon pool in still weather, calm surface
Photo by Therese of Swimming Pool Stories

I used to swim almost every morning all year around in a tidal pool back when we lived in a beach suburb, before we bought the house and moved out west. I swam about the same time every morning, but the experience was always unique – there were so many factors that varied in addition to the routine elements, that it could never be similar to any other day.

A tidal pool is an ocean-side rock pool, where the water is naturally circulated by sea water. The sides are usually made of concrete, and the pools typically have an open “fence” of poles with safety chains on the ocean-sides, to give swimmers something to grab hold of should they accidentally be dragged out at high tide. There are many tidal pools in Sydney.

At high tide, the pool water flows in and out over the edges. High tide water is fresh & clean & full of interesting ocean odours, and there is a fantastic interplay between the restless surface of the water; the sound of the waves and seabirds, the sight of the ocean and all its lively waves filling the huge space between the pool and the horizon; the salty wind; and the sky.

Sometimes the water surface was so calm it acted as a mirror for the sky; at other times it was wrinkled and stirred, warning about troubling weather ahead. The water always told a story about what had happened and what was to come next; and it was never the same story.

My morning routine was to wake up painfully early, drive to the pool and park my car, go for my morning jog on the coastal walkway, come back & pick up the towel from the car, swim in the pool, drive home, have a hot shower, eat breakfast, dress up & drive to work. That start carried me through the long, dreadful days in the office. Well it didn’t actually, but it helped. I was dead tired most of the time though (mainly due to people stress, confusion and boredom at work).

Ocean pool communities

There were of course fish in the pool, and crabs along the edges. The tidal pool was an ecological community and I didn’t want to be part of that, so I never touched the bottom with my feet. There was at some stage rumoured to be a Blue Ringed Octopus sitting on a shelf-like cracked concrete wall (there was indeed a kitten-sized octopus sitting there, I saw it); a spot to carefully avoid. A pair of long-necked hunting seabirds would sit on the tall street lamp between their hunts, dripping wet, and a small penguin-like seabird dived in the pool after fish when there wasn’t too much human traffic in the water. A rumour had it that it had bitten a man in the knee under the water once, presumably by mistake.

Whale stranded in ocean pool (dead)
Luckily, there were no whales in the pool, dead or alive.
Image from Sydney Morning herald

The pool had a human community of regular morning swimmers, some of whom came all year around like me. These people – young and old, mostly old – recognised me and smiled and said good morning. Many of them seemed like very happy people, and many had been swimming there for decades. Most of these people swam “labs”; so they swam back and forth from end to end, often a specified number of times and typically in only one swim-style (e.g. crawl or breast strokes), most with their heads above the water, moving steadily forward in straight lines till they reached the end, then turned and repeated, over and over.
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Scary clouds on the horizon… about Sydney’s current bushfire emergency

Australia is, as everybody knows, highly flammable, and there is currently a large number of severe bushfires going on around Sydney; unusual for this time of year. A state of emergency has been declared across the state, and although the bushfires are of course spread across a vast area, the smoke is quite visible where we live. Well, in most of Sydney I think.

I have spent all afternoon today on the roof sweeping off branches and leaves from the roof and from the veranda roof as far as I could reach out (the veranda roof is not strong enough to carry me), and on a ladder clearing leaves and whatever else out of the gutters.

Then I swept the pavement and ripped up anything that looked dry and long haired and grew near the house. I was wearing my ear plugs all that time, because it is cicada season and the noise outside is deafening, probably somewhere between 120 and 150 DB, because these things really want to make themselves heard in their 6 weeks of adulthood (and then they die).

I haven’t been too specific about my location so far, but we live about an hours drive west of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia. I am not Aussie and don’t know much about bushfires except for what I have read in the news and on the NSW Rural Fire Service’s website and in the Bushfire Survival Plan. That’s why we cleared the gutters… the plan tells us to.

We are not done with everything the plan says yet, far from it. I don’t think we are in danger of being reached by any major bushfire front in the suburb where we live, but according to the plan, embers can travel many kms/hours ahead a front and start spotfires, and we do live just a few streets from bushland, which accordingly to the plan means our house should be prepared even if we don’t think it is in danger.

We are about 50 kms from the nearest major bushfire front that is currently burning. That fire alone has at this stage burnt well over 12,000 ha land (and counting). It was downgraded from “Emergency” to “Watch & Act” level after Thursday (the worst day so far), but the weather conditions are forecast to worsen again from tomorrow with high temperatures and gusty winds predicted.

Thursday I was in Sydney city. It was supposed to be a warm and sunny day, but instead a sickly grey haze covered the sky and made the sun look small, red and faint. It was surreal. Sydney is a big city far from the fire fronts, but the fires out there are so massive that it can darken the sky in Sydney when the wind comes from a “helpful” direction.


Blanket of clouds from bushfires darkens the sky over Sydney's harbour bridge and skyline

Smoke from bushfires fill the sky over the city in Sydney, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. (AAP Image/James Morgan) NO ARCHIVING

17 October 2013 – Photo from The Conversation

When I drove home westward on the highway that day, the huge dark smoke clouds were looming ahead in the distance all the time. The mobile traffic signs informed that the highway was closed further west due to the bushfires.

When I drove off towards my suburb, the traffic information sign there rolled 3 messages over and over on the screen: “Total Fire Ban”, “Report Suspicious Activity”, and “Activate Your Bushfire Plan”. Activate Your Bushfire Plan? Like, what now? There wasn’t any emergency warning on for our suburb, so that was confusing. Our bushfireplan is to drive to the city, but that seemed like a bit of an overkill since there was (and is) no acute threat to our area.
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