Category Archives: work

Kindle registration = Usability fail?

My parents got a bit carried away at Otto’s school fete on Saturday and bought themselves a Kindle. They’ve been eagerly eyeing mine, and bought one for the Bigster for her birthday, so I suspect they had been working up to it for some time.

I love the feel of a paper book, but I also love the immediacy of a Kindle. I buy a lot of free/on special books, which is where the Kindle really shines, but I also use it for reference books when searchability is an issue.

On Sunday, I went to set up their Kindle and link it to my Amazon account (trusting that they won’t figure out the marketplace in a hurry … do you think I should be worried?),  and discovered something interesting.

See, I find the Kindle incredibly easy to use. You turn it on, use the “five way controller” to find what you want, page back and forth … it’s all there. And my parents had seen me use it and had tried it out and also found it easy. And they’re just nerdy enough to want a new toy.

But before they could use their Kindle, we had to register it. And this is a massive undertaking that took us quite literally 39 minutes (I checked my call logs).

Here’s what we found:

  • The Kindle (they have the Keyboard model) is quite unforgiving. Mum’s hands shake a bit, and sometimes she accidentally pressed the wrong key, then had to exit what she was doing to go back. Getting the wrong Symbol is particularly annoying.
  • The Kindle starts with the manual page open. I suspect it would be better to start with the Registration page. It took us quite a while to get there.
  • It’s easy to press the wrong button and the Kindle doesn’t give very informative error messages. Maybe this is a wish for mind-reading though – mum accidentally typed my email address wrongly (she typed melisssa – you’d think she’d know by now!) and it said “no username found”.
  • There was some anxiety when – after completing the registration process successfully – the first link on the screen she was returned to was ‘deregister’.

So here’s what could have been done better:

  • The Kindle should start with the registration page. Rewrite it to include a couple of basic usage tips if necessary, but be ready to receive the information required.
  • I should have been able to register the Kindle using the web interface. I’m sure this is possible in theory, as my own Kindle (bought through Amazon) arrived registered to me. Give me the serial number and I could have entered it straight away. Even if mum had then had to enter a password, at least it would have been one thing rather than many.

I suspect this is less of an issue for people in countries where Kindles are sold through Amazon, but in Australia we often buy through a third-party reseller (or, apparently, at school fetes).

That said, once she finally managed to register, we were in gravy. She scrolled through my archives, checking which books she wanted to read, while I scrolled through the web interface and sent some over to her. The web interface works well and mum was amazed to see things just appearing – the 3G is really excellent.

The only issue is going to be when she and dad want to read the same book, and have to fight over where it syncs to… I have a suspicion they might end up wanting another one.

So overall verdict: Kindle good, registration bad. I did reassure her repeatedly that the registration process is the hardest thing she will ever have to do on there.

It’s just a shame that they haven’t simplified it.

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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in books, work


Returning to study

Because I don’t have enough to keep me busy *cough*, I am thinking about going back to study.

Fraser, as usual, suspects that I may be insane.

There are a few reasons for this. The going-back-to-study, not the insanity speculation. There may be many reasons for the latter but they are not mine to explore.

The main one is that I have no formal qualifications at all for the stuff I do. I sort of fell into this field about 15 years ago and have just gone with the flow, learning on the job and reading up on new techniques. Which is not a bad way to be, especially since I don’t think there WERE formal qualifications back then, but it’s not the greatest way to be when you are trying to Impress Clients with how Fabulous you are. OK, technically, I have a Graduate Certificate plus 2 subjects (so *almost* a Grad Dip) in Software Development. But that is kind of the pointy end rather than the touchy feely end where I actually work.

Other reasons are about a bit of insecurity about the place where I work – our director is getting older & has said she probably has about 5 years left in the business. That means that I may be looking for a job in 5 years’ time – better to have a qualification when and if that time comes.

And then there’s the one about just liking to study.

Anyway. I found the perfect course which I could study ONLINE. And I thought maybe I could just pick a subject or two and go for it. Because a subject or two is better than no subjects at all. And then I could decide later whether I wanted to keep going or turn it into a degree course of some kind.

With this in mind, I contacted the university. I told them a bit about my background and what I do professionally and that I was thinking of doing a bit more study and this is what happened:

Melissa: I am thinking about doing a subject or two online, to see how it works.
Head of Department: Oh yes, you should do our Graduate Diploma. We can give you exemptions.
Melissa: Well, I was thinking about doing a couple of subjects online, because they are the same as the Grad Dip subjects, and I want to see how study works for me. And they are half the price.
Head of Department: Oh well we can give you credit for those towards a Grad Dip. Up to two of them. And also just give you credit for 2 subjects because we like you. And you could do a Masters of course. Actually, you should. That is only 4 more subjects than the Grad Dip. So you would do eight subjects with us and have a MASTERS. Tempt tempt.
Melissa: Yes but first I want to do two subjects to see whether I can fit them in. Busy life blah blah.
Head of Department: Of course. And then after you do your Masters, you can do a PhD with us too.
Melissa: Let’s start with the two subjects, huh?

So I have been trying to enrol for the two subjects. Well, for one of them. Which is a second-year subject and usually has a pre-requisite, which I am assured is not enforced.

Except, as it turns out, by the people who are actually DOING THE ENROLMENT. So I have been phoning them a lot this week to try to work out how to get myself enrolled. And quoting a student number and stuff, which is a bit of a blast from the past.

Apparently I am going to have to write ESSAYS.

Which should not be a huge big deal given that I can blurt out umpteen blog posts a week and write a report at 2am and have written a thesis in the past. But still.




Posted by on April 30, 2012 in study, work


BGGcon wrap-up

Well my week and a bit as a lone parent is nearly up. As Fraser and his assorted hats and very full suitcases wing their way home, let’s take a quick look back.

The most challenging part was dealing with Otto, who is not the most self-motivated of children and who needs to be nagged to do anything. Case in point: I don’t think she has showered more than once in the last 10 days. Now I am not a “you must shower every day” person (well, I am, but not where my 8 year old is concerned), but that it stretching it a bit far even for me. I did hit unexpected success with a bribe on Sunday, though.

The best bits were the fun stuff like sneaking off to Cold Rock ice cream (Baileys and Honeycomb ice cream with cookie dough and a strawberry Freddo crushed through it = amazing) and taking the girls out to dinner tonight.

The naughtiest bits were letting the cats cruise around the house overnight. Which was not always a success, as Snowflake gets VERY chatty at around 4:30am. One more night, kitten, then Fraser will put you in your place. Which is shut up the back of the house (living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom – it’s not like they are really deprived).

The most unexpected-but-nice thing was having a friend drop in on Friday afternoon. Even though I was clearing stuff up while we chatted, it was good to have someone to talk to (and keep me working!).

The ickiest bits were having to clean out the kitty litter Every Day. Ugh. And having to detangle Otto’s hair after the aforementioned 10 shower-free days. She is not a calm child when her hair is being deknotted. Oh – and changing my nephew’s nappy when I babysat him and my niece on Saturday night.

The most difficult bit was carrying Otto to the car, after that babysitting session. I had to get my brother to help – fortunately she was awake when we got home so I didn’t have to break my back.

The most exhausting part was juggling my work. I am available to work 23 hours per week. Last week, I worked nearly 40. This week, by 9am Tuesday, I had already worked 15 hours. And was feeling like I was already behind.

The funniest part was the Bigster having friends over to film a brief movie for her English project. Otto had a friend round too, and the two little girls sat at the back door and watched the big kids. “It’s like we’re watching a movie be filmed!”

And the scariest part was finding that the handle is almost off the back door.


The doorknob is almost off

Now for most people, this would probably not be a problem. I really don’t think that someone has tried to break in, however suddenly this seems to have happened. But I am an absolute coward when it comes to being home alone (in fairness, this came after being a victim of a rather persistent peeping tom in my teens and a burglary while I was home alone not long after), and the combination of that and waaaaayyyyyyy too much diet coke while working late meant that very little sleep was got on Sunday. Even though I locked the doors, I kept hearing Noises. Not-Cat noises. Ugh.

And the most procrastinatey part was writing a blog post when OMG I HAVE WORK TO FINISH TONIGHT.

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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in family, food, not your earth logic, work


School holidays! Yikes!

So, I haven’t been posting much lately.

Here is what I have been doing a lot of: WORK.

Here is what I have not been doing: SLEEPING. Also, RELAXING. Also, READING.

The situation is sufficiently dire that Fraser has finished a book before I have even started it. (To clarify: Usually I finish the series before he finishes the first book. And it was not a SHORT book, either.)

The good news is that I now know why. After doing all my bajillion invoices for the past year, I have earned about the same as usual.

Except that, ooh yeah, I WAS IN GERMANY FOR THE FIRST HALF OF THE FINANCIAL YEAR. And was not working.

Which means that earning the same as usual is sort of good news. And also explains why I have been feeling so crazy busy.

I had planned to take time off these school holidays, but a colleague has gone to France for 7 weeks. So I am both busy AND envious.

The girls spent 3 days of last week at mum and dad’s. Mum commented that that was about all she could take, much as she obviously adores her granddaughters.

And apparently it really WAS about all she could take, because she now has a filthy cold … and cannot mind them THIS week! Yikes!

Here is what I have done to try to solve the problem:

  1. Texted school outside-school-hours-care worker (possibly ex-worker) who babysat them in January, asking whether she is free.
  2. Considered ringing our regular babysitter … then remembered that I got her work at MY work for this week! Ooops!
  3. Asked the girls who they like at outside-school-hours-care … then walked to the local ice-cream shop where one of Otto’s favourites works part-time. The plan was to ask whether (a) she was interested or (b) she would pass on my number to another staffer, who Otto adores. Sadly, she was not there. The ice-cream was good, though.
  4. Otto’s new plan: “We should go there tomorrow, mummy. She might be there, then.” (I asked the other staffer, who said she only works Wednesday and Friday. Sigh.
  5. Advertised for a GERMAN SPEAKING babysitter in a support group for German people.
  6. Considered emailing the Outside-school-hours-care co-ordinator (whose email address I have but possibly am not meant to have) to ask whether she would pass a message on to Otto’s favourite. As in, I have the email drafted … but it feels like I would be abusing the email address to actually use it for non-school-stuff. Curse my overdeveloped sense of privacy.
  7. Warned work that I may not make it in.
  8. Emailed a colleague to ask if she can do my 10am interview on Wednesday, just in case.
  9. Warned Fraser (who is unbelievably stressed as his work is craaaaaaazy too) that he may need to take a day off. Felt hugely guilty about this but really, my work is as important as his work, and they are OUR children.
  10. Got Fraser to take Otto out today (Biggie lazed around in her bathrobe and read) so that I could do a full day’s work. I did it, too, although I have more to do now and I am procrastinating a little. (This would be more laudable if I hadn’t already planned to work all day today so I can go out to a friend’s tomorrow)

Here are my goals for the week:

  1. Get to work. At least once, but particularly to the Important Meeting on Tuesday and the Important Meetings on Thursday.
  2. Clean the study. Yeah right … but at least I got to give the dresser/change table combo to friends. They will get good use from it, and I won’t have it any more. A double win.
  3. Get to bed before midnight. At least once.
  4. Stick to my Jenny Craig diet. I have been slipping.
  5. Get back to Curves. See #4, above.
  6. Win the lottery and buy a beach house to store all some of my books.

Just thought I would sneak that last one in.

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Posted by on July 4, 2010 in sleep, work


And three weeks zipped by ..

Last time I counted, it was 6 weeks till we left.

Ah, heaps of time.

Now, it is three-and-a-half.

Just to put that in perspective:

  • The girls and I have three weekends left in Australia. This weekend, Fraser and I will be at BorderCon in Albury – so there are really only two weekends left before we go. And we want to have a party the week before we leave – so really only one weekend to pack things up.
  • I have a project to finish for a client. It involves writing a whole battery of PRINCE2 documents. That will be achievable.
  • I have another project to finish for another client. It involves lots more writing. That will be partially achievable, but I will probably have work to do when I get to Germany. The client is not happy with some of the work that I didn’t do, and has asked for me to work on that area. While her faith in me is touching and flattering, I am nervous that it might be misplaced.
  • I have two games to translate. The urgent part of one is half-done. I’m hoping to finish the urgent bits by the middle of the week.
  • I have all sorts of things to organise for our trip. More on this elsewhere. I need to stop overthinking the small stuff.
  • Mum and dad’s house has its first Open-For-Inspection on Thursday. I have not been there for a week. I need to find time to go there.
  • I still do not have a British passport. Nor do the girls have Australian passports (long story). Lots of chasing things up to happen on Monday morning.
  • Fraser and I need to get international drivers permits. We tried to do this on Saturday, but the RACV shop closes at 12 noon (where every other shop in the centre closes at 5pm).
  • I have to go to the luggage shop and ask if they can order the new model of Trunki for Otto. Failing that, I need to order one online. This is becoming urgent.
  • We need to organise parent-teacher meetings with the girls’ teachers. These would normally happen at the end of this term but they have been delayed to early next term.
  • Fraser and I need to move back to our “2 boxes a night” packing philosophy.
  • I need to do invoicing and tax. Urgently.

I want to invent a term

or maybe someone got there first.

Anyway, the phenomenon where funny stuff gets more positive ratings than serious, well-thought-out content? Should be called the Funniest Home Videos Effect.

I don’t think I can put that in the report I am writing for government, though.

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Posted by on May 18, 2009 in work


Easter break?

Ever since I got back from Europe last year, I have found it harder to switch off and focus on work when I am at home.

This is probably a good thing. It means that I cook dinner with my kids, and I am sure that I now spend more time reading to Otto than I used to.

On the other hand, my clients may not think it is so good.

See, I rely on being able to do at least 12 hours’ work at home in any standard week. That includes Mondays, when I work from home, and other evenings during the week or time spent over the weekend. It’s the way I juggle my week, leaving time to take the girls to school and pick them up, as well as do other Very Important Stuff. (see: Haircuts, Laundry, Games program at school). 

And it’s just not happening.

Easter is a 4-day weekend in Australia. We actually get more time off at Easter than we do at Christmas, as shops are closed on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but open on Boxing Day. 

Fraser took Otto to the Zoo yesterday, which was great, but only lasted 2 hours. Today, he took Biggie to the movies, which was also a lovely bonding exercise but did leave me with more rather than less to do here, hanging with the 6 year old. (She made us dinner: strawberry yoghurt with sliced banana. Yum!). 

Meanwhile, I’m still finishing off a document for a Wednesday meeting with a client. Which needs to be sent (the document, not the client) to a colleage before tomorrow, for review. So I have spent my “Easter break” stressing about work and trying to do some and not succeeding and getting more stressed. Etc.

And even if it didn’t go before tomorrow, I would have no time tomorrow, due to the Crazy Swimming Lesson Debacle TM (Otto at 9am, Biggie at 10.30 … yeesh) and then frantically tidying up before my fabulous professional organiser person arrives at 2, so that she will not shake her head and look disappointed at me. (at least this time, most of it is mess rather than clutter). And then Organising from 2 till 5, and then collecting my niece from creche and playing with her and cooking dinner and … well, you get the idea.

hmm. Guess I should be working on those REQUIREMENTS instead of rambling here, or bouncing because we are OMG OFF TO GERMANY. *Yawn*

Also? My notebook cord is not long enough for me to sit on the sofa to work. Which is a Big Shame because the sofa is super comfy.

whine, whine, whine.


Posted by on April 14, 2009 in work


The most surprising nights …

When the director of the firm I consult through emailed all the women that work in our organisation to ask whether we wanted to go to the Institute of Public Administration Australia’s dinner to celebrate International Women’s Day, I said OK.

Worthy day to celebrate, big dinner – bit of a yawn, but nice to go out for the night.

We celebrated early because the 8th is part of a long weekend this year. And what a celebration it was.

Around 140 tables of 10, for starters. There were a handful of men – maybe 30 in total – the rest were women.

The Special Guest of the evening was Christine Nixon, who retired last week after 8 years as the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police.  She was the first (and, I think, so far the only) female Chief Commissioner in Australia. She’s done some amazing things in her time. The two that were singled out for mention tonight were her crusade against corruption in the police force and her reaction to being approached about allowing police officers to march in their uniforms in the Midsumma gay & lesbian pride march: not only did she allow it, she proudly marched with them.

After turning in her badge on Friday, she took up a new appointment on Monday as the Chair of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority .

Anyway. That’s her CV, and she was the special guest.

After having tribal drummers drum us to our seats, we were welcomed to the event by both the IPAA president and the traditional (indigenous) owners of the land. Then we had the expected speeches about Christine Nixon – but with a difference. There were two performances by a light opera quintet, including a variant on one of my dad’s favourite songs ever, the Gondoliers’ duet from Gilbert & Sullivan. (We run them in, we run them in, etc).

And then it was time for a special moment – passing over the gift to the Guest of Honour.

But hang on … why had the stage lights gone up to reveal the police band? Surely they weren’t scheduled to play till later, after the “surprise entertainer”?

Sometimes, I can be a little slow.

Because then we learned what was going on – when the leader of the Police Band handed his ex-Chief a microphone, and invited him to join the band in some songs – and suddenly we were all enveloped by I am Woman.

She actually sang three songs with them – I don’t even remember the second, but the third is apparently her favourite: It’s Raining Men! Maybe her iPod thinks she’s a gay man, just like mine?

Then they did the presentation, and she spoke briefly – and then she invited everyone to get back on the dancefloor and join her in one more rendition of I am Woman.

And after that, there was dessert, there was dancing, there was the Victoria Police band “Code One” (playing rock & pop). But it was nothing compared to the early part of the evening.

My best wishes to you all for a happy, peaceful and strong International Women’s Day on Sunday.

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Posted by on March 5, 2009 in going_out, work


25 things I have learned

Here are 25 things that I have learned (or observed) in the past four days or so. You may learn from them, or you may just shudder. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on February 5, 2009 in children, family, parenting, school, work



Many, many years ago, I worked for a phone company. And I got a mobile phone, and I had it on a staff plan.

Some years later, they realised that I had left the company and I probably wasn’t entitled to a staff plan anymore. Fortunately, by that time, we could access the same plan through Fraser’s work. So we changed the phone into his name (and got a new number), and kept it on the plan.

Earlier this year, we got a letter to say that they had realised we were on the really really good plan that plan was no longer available and they had switched us to a basic plan.  My phone bills went from about $15-$25 a month to around $100 a month. Ouch. I need the phone for work, so cancelling was not an option. And I am, mostly, allergic to contracts, especially on services that I have been using since 1995 or so.

Then I went to Europe. I rang to confirm I had Roaming, and they told me that I had to go onto a Plan. A 12 month  contract, to be specific. So I said OK, because I really really wanted to be able to use my phone in Europe, and I got a contract.

Me: “Can I upgrade it later, if the minimum contract is not enough?”
Phone person: “Yes.”

Well now you know what’s coming.

My phone bills stayed at around the $100 level. So in December, I rang to change to a higher plan. Which I have to stay on for 12 months, which will be annoying if we go to Europe next year (but worthwhile in the meantime).

I got my first bill today – with a $101.73 charge for switching plans. WTF?

I rang the phone company, with 2 points.

  1. I was told in October that I could upgrade from the $20 plan. No-one mentioned a charge.
  2. I was not told in December that I would be slugged with this extortionate charge.

Their response had me utterly gob-smacked and dumbfounded:

You didn’t change to the same TYPE of plan, so that is why you were charged the fee.

I pointed out, quite gently, that perhaps it was not reasonable to expect a customer to have an intimate knowledge of their internal and arbitrary distinctions between their types of plan.

Then I told the consultant that I was really quite annoyed (OMG understatement) and that I was quite prepared to take this case to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

Couple of minutes later, bingo. Charge reversed, please underpay your bill, sorry for the inconvenience, have a nice day.

Whoo hoo. Problem solved.

But really? 


This is bureaucracy at its best worst most bizarre. I’m sorry, you didn’t fill in the RED form and file it in the GREEN box, you lose.

2009 appears to be Melissa’s Year Of Not Tolerating Organisational Stupidity. At least until I get lazy.


Posted by on January 6, 2009 in rant, work