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megpie71

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megpie71: Avon looking unimpressed, caption "Bite Me" (bite me)
Monday, February 22nd, 2016 05:24 pm
So, I've been unemployed for six months (according to Centrelink, anyway). Which means, lucky me, I'm due to start my "Work For The Dole Phase" of the whole glorious process of being unemployed in Australia in the 21st century.

For those not in the know, "work for the dole" was an idea conceived back in the era of John Howard, by Liberal Party policy-makers who wanted to bring back the workhouses, but who didn't fancy the idea of having to shell out money to feed, house and clothe the undeserving poor (i.e. anyone on an activity-tested Centrelink payment[1]). Basically, in order to impress on the long-term unemployed how important it is they find paying work, they're required to perform up to twenty-five hours a week of compulsory, unpaid[2] volunteer work in order to be able to continue receiving their dole payment. I suspect whoever came up with this one must have woken up in the night and hugged themselves with glee[3].

Luckily for me, I'm on a part-time activity test (mental illness, such fun). I only have to do sixteen hours a fortnight worth of whatever the current equivalent of picking oakum, washing bottles, pasting labels or sorting rags is. Normally, the requirement is for fifteen hours a week for someone my age, twenty-five for someone younger. In my case, I'm going to be transcribing old (hand-written) court records from turn-of-the-century-NSW (i.e. early 1900s). Years of translating my mother's appalling medical handwriting into something legible has finally come in useful.

Basically, this sort of thing is supposed to... well, I have no idea what it's supposed to do. Punish me for the sin of not being in employment, one presumes. I have the site induction on Thursday, I suppose I get to find out then whether I'm supposed to be wearing sackcloth and rubbing ashes into my hair to show repentance, flagellating myself with a cat-o'-nine-tails, or whether just walking around wearing a sandwich board that says "I'm SO FUCKING SORRY" will do.

Yes, I am a bit cranky about this.

I'm cranky about it, because it's a bit of deliberate humiliation on the part of a government which has an ideological agenda, and will do anything in its power to get that agenda implemented. I'm cranky about it because I'm being forced into performing unpaid labour in order to ensure wage earners are frightened into accepting lower wages and lower conditions in order to avoid being put into this situation. I'm cranky about it because the penalties for missing work, or not being able to perform whatever work I'm supposed to be doing on the day I'm supposed to be doing it, are all on me (yes, even if my erstwhile "employer" doesn't have enough work for me to be doing, or the computers are down, or the office gets hit by a meteor falling from the sky).

Oh, and I still have to keep looking for 20 jobs a month, same as before. That doesn't change, either. About the only positive thing to note about the whole mess is that since the place I'm going to be physically doing my Work for the Dole placement is the offices of my JobActive provider, I'll be able to drop off my monthly lists with a lot less carry-on.


[1] Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, and Special Benefit.
[2] If your "volunteering" is organised through your JobActive provider, you get an extra $20 per fortnight on your dole payment to cover costs incurred (transport, lunches etc). If it isn't, you don't. There's a LOT of encouragement to find your own "volunteer work".
[3] A bit of googling reveals it was the brain-child of Tony Abbott. I must remember to write him a thank-you note.
megpie71: Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles (Impossibility)
Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 07:23 am
TW: unemployment, suicidal thoughts, mental illness

So, Himself got the sack on Monday for being off sick too often (about four weeks over the course of about ten months), but more realistically he got the sack because his boss didn't want to keep employing another technical person now the boss's honeymoon is over. We are now back to the Centrelink/Job Nyetwork "Dance of the Deserving Poor", which is a variation on the Masochism Tango where you scourge yourself for the entertainment of public servants who aren't interested in watching.

I am, quite predictably, not reacting to this well. As in, I'm melting down all over the place. Have an appointment with my doctor today to get a medical certificate for the depression (which is flaring up to the point where I've spent most of the past two days defaulting to thinking very positive thoughts about going out and playing in the traffic) and I'll be hoping to be able to head back to the last Employment Services Provider I was seeing, since I got accustomed to their particular brand of useless and I figure they'd be able to dig the file out of storage.

I'd be happier, I think, if they'd just acknowledge it is literally less likely for me to get a job than it is for me to win Lotto (1 in 85 chance of winning something in lotto, if you buy a ticket; by contrast, I applied for over 100 jobs during the course of 2014 without so much as a preliminary interview resulting) and that the only reason I'm sending out the applications in the first place is because Centrelink demands it. Your tax dollars at work, making work for HR types and recruiting agencies.

I'm going to try and keep these whiny posts to a minimum, because I know people aren't really all that interested.
megpie71: AC Reno holding bomb, looking away from camera (about that raise)
Thursday, January 15th, 2015 06:47 pm
It appears one of the employment scammers I've written about is trying their tricks again. I got a whole heap of comments just today from people thanking me for putting up something warning about RLB Solution and their Hiring Coordinator, Anna Stern.

To be honest, I'm glad it's been helpful to other people - this was what I wrote the piece for in the first place. I wish it wasn't necessary (and if "Ms Stern" decides to stop attempting to exploit job seekers, that suits me just fine too), but I'm glad it helps.
megpie71: Animated "tea" icon popular after London bombing. (Default)
Thursday, December 18th, 2014 08:02 am
If you get a job offer purporting to be from the Gerosys Group, treat it with caution. It flies the "scam" flag good and hard.

Let's start with the basics: this mob contacted me out of the blue offering a job. I didn't contact them. One BIG red flag to begin with.

Second red flag: I have no memory of ever being contacted by this group for an interview. Generally, this is a pretty important step toward getting a job.

Third red flag: the job description offers $2600 per month for 20 - 25 hours work, recording financial payment information and processing payments. That's at least $26 per hour for what doesn't seem to be much actual effort. Or in other words, they're paying too much for the work they're asking. This means someone is trying to hook me through my greed.

Fourth red flag: These two paragraphs from their Job Description form:

"JOB ACTIVITIES
We sometimes have customers that owe us funds and pay us in financial instruments cashable only in the local area. Since we work all over the world, it is much easier for our customers to transfer money to our Assistant Clerk who are in the same area. After receiving funds Assistant Clerk must record information about transfer and report. Then send money to one of our branches.

WHY DO WE NEED ASSISTANT CLERK? WHAT DOES IT GIVE US?

Reduces % of taxes (avoiding double taxation);
Reduces expenses for offices maintenance (as Assistant Clerk is an official company's representative, so the construction and maintenance of the office is not required);
Number of clients is increased (as many customers can't make an international money transfer);
Our service is increased (as the international transfer needs about 5 days to reach our central office and then a couple of days to reach the performers branch. Consequently, it slows down our work significantly. It'd be much faster if Assistant Clerk receives the money and directs them to the appropriate department/branch. This is how we reduce terms of payments expectation and can provide a service to the customer more promptly)."


This mob purport to have a branch office in Sydney[1]. So why would they need me, living in Western Australia, to process payments in Australian currency?

Let's not forget, this whole "we need you to process payments into the appropriate currency" business is generally the mask for a scam wherein the scammers gain access to your bank account and vacuum out all the contents.

Fifth red flag: They're asking me to scan a copy of my passport, driver's license or other ID and send this in.

Can we say "identity theft", kiddies? I knew we could!

All of the above are enough to hoist the Scam flag high. The whole thing stinks of scam. The following are the little garnishes which just add grace notes to the smell.

* The person who purported to send me the letter (Alexis Poulson) doesn't appear to exist, and particularly not in Sydney, Australia. Nothing on Facebook, nothing on LinkedIn.
* The name of the "HR manager" on the employment agreement form doesn't show up in Sydney either, and it's a particularly common name.
* Their domain is registered to a Russian domain registry, rather than one in the USA (the website appears to be for a company based in Boston) or Australia (given their Australian branch office).
* There's a "news" item on the bottom of the front page of their website which links straight to the job description I quoted above, apparently soliciting new staff in Australia and Canada.
* The job, as described, needs only high school graduation level education (they actually say "high school diploma or GED", which is a very US-centric description of the whole business).
* The "Company seal" on the employment application firm lists the company as a "limited liability company" (which isn't a company description we have here - we're more likely to go with proprietary limited companies instead), and doesn't have an ABN (Australian business number - a REQUIREMENT for doing business in Australia for GST purposes). So either they're not a genuine company, or they're busy evading tax here in Australia.

I've reported them to the ACCC here in Australia, but I'd urge anyone who gets a job offer from this mob anywhere in the world to be extremely wary. As always, the marks of a genuine job offer are these:

* You go looking for them, they don't go looking for you (particularly at the lower rungs of the ladder; particularly if the unemployment rate is higher than 1%)
* A genuine job offer will come with a request for an interview first, because a genuine employer wants to keep you on in their company for a long time. They will therefore want to find out whether or not you're a "good fit" for their company in the first place.
* The wages won't be massively out of line with the industry standard for the sort of work they're asking for. If your highest educational qualification in this day and age is a high school graduation, you're looking at minimum wage work, not the sort of stuff that pays $26 per hour.
* They won't be asking you to perform duties the banking system is actually perfectly capable of doing (eg international money transfers or currency changing).

[1] 100 Walker St, North Sydney, for the interested. From google maps, it looks like an office complex. If anyone wants to visit and take a dekko at their directory, I'd be overwhelmingly interested in finding out whether they're registered on the directory.
megpie71: AC Reno crouched over on the pavement, looking pained (bad day at work)
Sunday, December 1st, 2013 11:25 am

WestJobs



WestJobs are seriously pissing me off at this point. I mean, okay, they run screen scrapes on any number of jobs databases, and link those into the Australian Job Search site, which I'm contractually obliged to use as part of my job search due to my Employment Pathway Plan with my employment services provider. Fine. I can deal with that. I can even deal with their lovely little habit of putting as little information in the Aus Job Search site ad as possible, and then linking me to the actual job ad, so that I can maybe open a third page with the inevitable selection criteria on it (and then discover I'm not suited to the job).

But I'm really starting to get jack of them putting links to jobs in THEIR jobs database, and then dropping me straight to their main search page instead of actually taking me to a job ad.

Just NO. If I wanted to use the WestJobs search page, I'd use it. I have the wretched thing bookmarked in my browser, should I ever wind up sufficiently desperate to find something which fits on my job search list for the week. But I really DON'T appreciate being handed a job title, and a link to their search page as a fucking default. I particularly don't appreciate it when nine out of a possible sixteen links I'm looking at on the Aus Job Search site do this. It smacks of "toying with the unemployed for the fun of it".

Well, this particular member of the unemployed has reached the point where she figures she doesn't have much left to lose. So I'm snapping back. I've sent them a bad-tempered email via their "contact us" page, and hopefully they'll improve their game somewhat. Or stop doing that particular trick - I'd settle for the latter as a compromise. As I've said previously: I may have time on my hands. This doesn't mean I appreciate it being wasted for me.
megpie71: AC Reno holding bomb, looking away from camera (about that raise)
Monday, November 25th, 2013 10:07 am

ISS



I applied on Sunday for a Receptionist position with ISS via Seek.com.au. I did up a cover letter, attached my resume, and sent the email in using the Seek interface, since ISS hadn't indicated on their ad they wanted any other format of contact.

Today, I received an automatic follow-up email in my inbox, from an ISS bot with an unrepliable (unmonitored) email address. Basically, in order to actually apply for the position with ISS, I'd have to go to another site, create a profile on this secondary site (i.e. give all my details to yet another consulting firm, so they can be on-sold to whoever they fancy) and answer some more questions in order to be asked to upload my resume again.

I've decided not to bother. See, I figure job search is a two-way process. If ISS is going to be doing the old "bait & switch" routine on me this early in the process, then I'm not going to bother with continuing. If ISS can't be bothered to treat potential employees with a bit of respect (by, for example, creating a link to their preferred website in their Seek.com.au ads, the way other big firms who use external HR/job advertising firms do) then how are they going to treat their actual employees? If I wanted to be treated like crap by management who thinks I'm infinitely replaceable, I'd take a job working for the federal public service, thanks.

Also, by basically creating an unrepliable email address, ISS have ensured I'm putting this up on my blog, where it's searchable by every single search engine out there, and will hopefully act as a bit of an indication for other people who are considering ISS as an employer in future. I may be unemployed, and I may have time on my hands, but I'm damned if I feel jumping through endless hoops just for the sake of hoop-jumping is an appropriate way to be spending it.
megpie71: Animated: "Are you going to come quietly/Or do I have to use earplugs?" (Come Quietly)
Wednesday, April 10th, 2013 05:32 am
So, it's about half four in the morning, I've been awake since about ten to three, and I've just had another mini-meltdown because each time I think I've realised all the packing I have to do and how much stuff I have to fit and how little space I have to fit it into, there turns out to be another fractal level of it I've forgotten. Things like "how do I fit an entire wardrobe's worth of clothing into one suitcase"? Admittedly, it's a large suitcase. But it's still only the one suitcase, and I have to try and fit clothing which currently fills a wardrobe, a chest of drawers, and a couple of storage tubs into it.

Plus there's the whole question of "what do I do with the contents of the pantry?" I suspect most of it will have to be thrown out (because there's no way known to mankind I'm going to be able to fit all of it into the pantries of either my mother or Steve's mother) and I'm not sure how much of it can be given to various food banks, or even how to get into contact with those food banks to find out whether they take donations.

There's so much needs doing, and so little time and so few spoons for me to be doing it with.

Well, it's half five now, and I've decided to do some dishes (I want pancakes for breakfast, so I have to wash the frypan and some cutlery).
megpie71: Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles (Impossibility)
Sunday, April 7th, 2013 08:38 am
So, just a bit of an update to let everyone who's interested (and anyone who's reading this) know where we're standing at present.

* Our car has just returned from having two CV joints and the muffler replaced (courtesy of Steve's parents, who heard about the problems and offered to pay for the work to be done by the mechanic they've been using for years).
* We have to be out of our current rental accommodation by Monday 15 APR 2013 at the absolute latest. We've asked about getting the lease extended by a week, but apparently the owners have contractors coming in to do things pretty much immediately after that, so we were turned down.
* We had an application in with a real estate agent to rent a 2-bedroom flatlet in Mandurah (Silver Sands area) at $200 per week. We heard back from them regarding whether our application has been successful yesterday - it hadn't.
* On Monday (08 APR 2013), we're heading down with Steve's parents to visit some friends of theirs who have access to some storage space in Yunderup. If it looks okay, we've then got somewhere to store all our excess furniture and goods.
* On Friday (12 APR 2013), we're getting a removalist to move our gear out of our current location in Parmelia. Current destination for us is the caravan at my parents place for a week or so, and then the downstairs rooms of Steve's parents place.
* We'll have to spend at least the week from 12 APR to 22 APR 2013 staying either in my parents' caravan, or in a motel room, because Steve's folks are expecting one of their sons and their grandson to visit for that week from NSW.
* The plan at present is that Steve's folks are planning to do a bit of a tour of various friends and rellies during the winter (sort of doing the grey nomad thing, only in a bit more comfort, from what I can tell) and they'll use us as house-sitters during the meanwhile.
* We're still both on the dole. Steve's looking for work. So am I, officially (although given I can only do about three days a week at most before the stress starts getting to me, unofficially I'm pretty damn certain I really should be looking into the various hoops I'd need to jump through for Disability Support Pension to see whether I'd be able to get it).
* I've wound up withdrawing from study (again!) because while I thought at the beginning of the semester that I'd be able to cope with everything, it turns out that I'm not. I would have had a major essay due about a week from now, and I really wasn't coping with keeping up with things for that, so rather than try and fail (which the uni tends to get a bit icky about) I decided to just withdraw. My withdrawal was after the HECS census date, so I'll still be paying for this attempt at the unit. To be deadly honest, I couldn't give a monkey's. With regard to paying off HECS, it's a case of first I need a job, then I need a job which is going to be paying me more than the HECS repayment threshold for three days a week, and then I'll start worrying about the size of the debt I have to pay off.
* In the meantime, we're in the process of packing things up, handing on the excess to the Salvos or the Sammies[1], and either selling or Freecycling the stuff which is in good enough nick to get rid of. If anyone in the Perth area has a whole heap of packing boxes they want to get rid of, we're on the lookout for them, since it's pretty clear we're not going to be able to fit our entire household into the boxes we have even after thinning things out. Contact me by email (megpie71 at yahoo dot com dot au) if you're able to offer 'em.
* Either way, from about 12 APR 2013 until we have a fixed abode again, don't expect to be hearing from me - 'net access is going to be patchy at best, I suspect. I have plans to drop in to the nearest Centrelink to wherever we wind up on Monday 15th and use their self-service facilities to make my fortnightly income report (because hey, they've got them handy), as well as bringing them up to date with either our new address, or the best available postal address for us.


[1] Good Samaritan Industries - a charity group which provides a lot of jobs for the intellectually less abled in the WA region. They do a lot of work reprocessing second hand clothing.
megpie71: 9th Doctor resting head against TARDIS with repeated *thunk* text (frustration)
Thursday, March 29th, 2012 09:45 am
Urgent call to increase the dole

ACOSS is asking the government to increase the dole (unemployment benefit) by $50 a week and to index it to wages. As someone who's on the dole at present (along with her partner), I stand by this request 100%. Here's why:

My dole payment per fortnight: $498.
My partner's dole payment per fortnight: $493
Our rent per week: $340
Our food and groceries budget per week: $100
The amount of money left over each fortnight after we pay for rent and food: $111

Out of that $111, we have to pay the electricity bill, the gas bill, the water charges, put petrol in the car (one tank of fuel costs approximately $50), pay for public transport fares, cover the costs of our internet connection, pay for our mobile phones, buy any medication we need, cover the costs of job search, and pay for any other incidental expenses which crop up (clothing, shoes, replacing household goods, car registration, car maintenance etc). Needless to say we're not doing so well, and the accumulated costs of living are nibbling away at our scanty savings all the time. We're now in a situation where one big bill is capable of cleaning us out financially.

Neither of us smokes. Neither of us drinks on more than an occasional basis (say, 1 drink every 6 - 8 months). We don't have kids, we don't have pets. Our entire recreational output is based around the internet, and the existing games and DVDs we own, because we can't afford new ones. We can't afford to go out either, so we're pretty much housebound. We go out to do the grocery shopping - that's our big excursion every week.

We've been living like this since about mid-January, and we're looking forward to living like this for at least another 3 - 6 months, because neither of us is the "ideal" employee, and as such, it takes us time to find new work. Now, the treasurer is busy saying that the government's aim is to get people back into work. Well, that's great. It would be even better if there were employers willing to employ us.

In the meantime, an extra $100 a fortnight each would help immensely with our situation. It would reduce the stress, and the constant dread of finding that next bill in the mail.
megpie71: AC Reno crouched over on the pavement, looking pained (about that danger money)
Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 09:02 am
This semester, I've decided to pick up a couple of psychology units, because I'm interested in tacking social psychology (or indeed any psychology) onto the side of my computer science degree as a way of making things a bit more interesting. I figure the computer science will teach me the what and how when it comes to dealing with computers, while the psychology side I'm picking up in an effort to try and figure out why they've become the sort of mega-meta-tool they are now.

So I'm up to week two, attempting to recover from the massive kick in the hip pocket I've taken by purchasing my textbooks (two subjects, textbooks coming to the better part of $300, we're on the dole... oh well, I didn't need to eat anyway), and attempting to keep up with the reading. Thanks be to the gods I'm only studying part-time, since that means I have two days a week where I can pretty much devote my time to things like setting up a decent meal in the slow cooker, then spend the entire day scribbling down notes.

Today, however, I am functioning on approximately 5 hours sleep, if that. Why? Well, through an interesting concatenation of circumstances last night, I wound up browsing my way through my LiveJournal archive. It was interesting seeing where I'd been (I was also digging through old posts on fanficrants, because I can't for the life of me remember what I did there - it was over five years and two computers ago, and I've long since lost the email archives which record these things), but I got so distracted that before I knew it, it was 2am, and I realised I needed to get some sleep. I set the alarm to wake me for 7am, and I'm now drinking my first cup of coffee in months before I get back to writing notes from the textbook for one of my subjects for the next couple of hours before diving out the door to go to today's lecture and tutorial.

I think when I get home tonight, it's going to be a case of "dig out some frozen leftovers from the freezer" (the slow cooker is a godsend, because I can cook up large meals, serve up some of them, freeze the rest, and save myself from having to try and think about cooking on my Uni days), have dinner, and then collapse and sleep. Particularly since I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow at 7.30am (because that way I'll hopefully get in before my GP has had a chance to get massively behind in her schedule).
megpie71: a phone, ringing. (hard at work)
Saturday, June 11th, 2011 10:22 am
Meds: 7/7

Another week of full compliance for the thyroid medication. I suspect at least part of the problem with taking things in conjunction with the psych meds was due to the psych meds themselves. This could prove to be interesting.

Knitting: 5/7 (but I haven't done today's allotment yet)

Current length is 90.5cm, which is about half the length of the dining table. The original plan called for casting off when it reached 2m even, but I think I'll just run it to the point where it reaches the end of the table instead, if only because the weight of the knitting is starting to get ridiculous these days.

Jobsearch: 0/8

It was a short week today (Foundation Day public holiday was on Monday) but come Tuesday I just couldn't be bothered with trying to look for work. I heard back about the job I was interviewed for - I didn't get it. Their reason was that I didn't have access to a car. Given I'm able to see the bus stop I'd've been getting off at from the front door of their office, the job I was applying for was an in-office clerical job, and the nearest post office is also clearly visible from the front door of their office (and about the same walking distance away as the bus stop) I've no idea why having access to a car was such a necessity. My guess is the lack of car is very much about "we don't want to have to mention anything which might sound discriminatory".

Other minor achievements: cooked up a melt-and-mix fruit cake (which turned out quite moist, very full of fruit), although our oven being what it is, the cake wound up scorched on the bottom and around one edge. However, I'll try out the recipe again, and see whether I can lower the temperature to the point where the cake will cook without scorching. I also made up some vegetable soup yesterday in the slow cooker.

The basic recipe consisted of three litres of vegetable liquid stock (from the pantry, one of which was low-salt, all of which were past their "best by" date), two diced onions, two finely diced cloves of garlic, four sticks of celery, four small spuds, three large-ish carrots, 1/4 of a large turnip, 1 parsnip, half a small savoy cabbage, 2 440g tins of tomatoes, a handful of green beans cut into 1.5 - 2cm lengths, a lidful of pearl barley, a lidful of red lentils, and a half-cup of macaroni. The onions, garlic and celery were turned into a bit of a sofrito (basically by chucking them into the slow cooker with the lid on while I chopped up everything else) and then I added the next batch of ingredients (stock, root veges, grains and lentils) once they'd softened up enough to be fragrant. Then simmer for an hour, then add the next batch of veges (cabbage and beans) then simmer for another couple of hours, then add the macaroni, simmer for another hour and serve. Turns out rather like minestrone, thick enough to require a spoon when taken from a mug, and very tasty. It's currently being brought up to boiling point again in the slow cooker, and then I'll just leave it simmering for the rest of the day.

Winter is soup time, as far as I'm concerned.
megpie71: Kerr Avon quote: Don't philosophise at me you electronic moron; answer the question (don't philosophise)
Thursday, April 7th, 2011 08:14 am
Washed up the dishes (and cleared the backlog of dirty dishes, yay!)
Collected the junk mail delivery from the driveway, read it, and dumped it all in the recyling box
Thought about making a chocolate mud cake (and decided to put it off for a bit)
Told the local JWs I wasn't interested in a copy of the Watchtower (or whichever publication God is pressing them to sell at present)
Brought in the washing from the clothesline
Added a few more cookbooks worth of data to my ongoing list of "recipes I'd like to try".
Noodled around on the internet a little
Answered a phone call

(really glamorous way to spend the day, huh?)
megpie71: Kerr Avon quote: Don't philosophise at me you electronic moron; answer the question (don't philosophise)
Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 06:35 pm
In the last couple of days, I've visited the doctor's office (and got a medical certificate covering the next couple of weeks), the local Centrelink office (got my medical certificate registered with them, so I don't need to be doing the activity test stuff) and now the nearest place that offered Job Capacity Assessments (where I got the advice they'll be recommending me for the local mental health jobsearch crew, with a note that I'm really only suited for 15 - 21 hours work per week). So far so lucky, and who knows, maybe I'll be able to get myself sorted out and get everything lined up for another six months or so, soonish.

As a sort of a mini-celebration, we visited the new SuperIGA supermarket which has opened up near us. Now, the IGA is the Independent Grocers Association - sort of a collective of all the little small store chains which used to be all over the place (all the little mini-mart stores), and they're the main third party in the Australian supermarket scene, beside the big two of Woolworths and Coles. I've always liked shopping at IGA stores because firstly, they're generally not at "big" malls, so it's not as much of an overload to visit them, and secondly, because they tend to have a wider range of actual product lines available than either of the two "big box" retailers. This one didn't disappoint - we were able to find some things which I hadn't been able to find in the local big box retailers, and stock up a bit. One of these things was junket tablets, which I haven't seen since I was a kid. I can remember my mother making up junkets for dessert (junket is a sort of milk jelly) when I was young - but I think the last time I had some I was in primary school. The ones I managed to pick up appear to only be a plain flavour, but I figure it's worth grabbing some just for the novelty value alone! We also managed to get the particular brand of shampoo Himself prefers (Revlon anti-dandruff stuff) and various other bits and pieces. Plus there's the wonderful feeling of "sticking it to the man" which comes from being able to shop at somewhere which isn't either Coles or Woolworths.

This last bit is important to me. Over the past two months, there's been an ongoing price war between Coles, Woolworths and the various dairying companies here in Australia over the appropriate price to sell milk to the consumer. Coles and Woolies have both lowered the prices on their "store brand" milk to $1 per litre (as well as pretty much dedicating 75% of their shelf space to these "store brand" products, so that even if you *do* want to purchase something else, you've a fair chance of not being able to find it), while the various dairy companies can't match that price (the two big retailers are pretty much covering it out of their profit margins). In the short term, yeah, it's possibly a win for the consumer, but in the long term, it means lower prices for the dairy farmers here in Australia, and it also means independent grocery companies (like IGA) are being forced to offer everyday staples at higher prices than the two larger chains. Essentially, it's a move to drive IGA out of the supermarket business, and narrow the options available to the consumer (again).

So as a consumer who appreciates a bit of choice, thanks (and doesn't want to be limited to what some buyer in inner-city Sydney or Melbourne thinks I should be purchasing) I figure it's worth my while to be buying groceries from IGA on as regular a basis as possible, if only because it helps them stay in the fight a while longer. If it means paying a bit more from a very low income (two of us on the dole, and renting our home at present), then so be it. I'm willing to make the necessary sacrifices, if it means having a retail environment which isn't down to "put up or shut up" for choices.
megpie71: Animated "tea" icon popular after London bombing. (Default)
Sunday, February 13th, 2011 07:18 am
Well, I have a job again, for the first time since October 2008. I'm working for a call centre in Bunbury.

For those who don't live in WA, Bunbury is a big regional centre about two hours south of Perth. Since the suburb I live in is about half an hour south of Perth, I have an hour and a half commute every workday. Yay.

Good points: it's the same call centre Himself is working in, so we get to carpool (I tend to drive down, he drives home again); they pay me; I'm actually given a reason to get out of bed in the mornings.

Not-so-good points: Bunbury is a fair old way from home; I work Saturday through Wednesday, he works Monday through Friday, which means whoever is at home is without the car, because it's spending the day in a carpark in Bunbury; I have to get out of bed in the mornings (up at six to be out the door by eight-thirty to be ready to work by ten-thirty - so arriving at work by about ten-fifteen at the latest).

At present, it's just a six week contract. If I wind up having a job after the end of six weeks, we may start looking at moving down to Bunbury (or at least as far as Mandurah, the half-way point between Perth and Bunbury) in order to cut commute times and make things a bit more civilised in terms of shopping arrangements. At present, I'm looking at switching my one unit of university study over to external study (because there is no way known to mankind I'm going to be able to be attending lectures in Murdoch and working in Bunbury simultaneously) and seeing whether I can keep up external study while working. I figure it'll be one way of making a difference in my day.

But yeah. Working. Wow.
megpie71: 9th Doctor resting head against TARDIS with repeated *thunk* text (9Dr1)
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 07:33 pm
More on my ongoing argument with the Australian government regarding money. I was due to be paid this week. It was a public holiday on Monday, and there's usually a bit of a quirk or two about the way payments are processed on public holidays (it's still set up for the pre-computerised days, where you actually needed staff in the building to handle the transactions). So when I couldn't see any money in my account on Monday, I didn't curse or swear. I checked my account yesterday - still no money.

Now, this is where things get interesting. Being the logical creature I am, I decided to troop off down to the local Centrelink office to find out what the heck was going on. Well, it was a busy day yesterday - day after a public holiday, plus I think the computers might have gone down for a while fairly early on, since the queues were just about out the door when we got there, and hadn't really dropped much by the time we left about an hour or so later. I found out why they hadn't paid me, though - while my Newstart had been suspended, pending the processing of my Austudy claim, the claim hadn't been processed. They booked me in for a walk-in appointment, warning me it could be up to a 2 hour wait.

It wasn't. I think I might have waited about three-quarters of an hour. So that was one good thing, anyway.

When I finally got to see the CSO (Customer Service Officer) who was dealing with my case, I discovered the reason why my claim hadn't been processed. They'd lost it.

No, really. They had lost my claim.

Now, I'd handed in this claim form in person, at the same office I was talking to about the whole issue, about three weeks previously. I had given it to one of their staff. She'd presumably put it into the internal mail, and sent it off to be processed by whoever the Austudy experts are (and wherever they are). And somewhere in all of that, the whole thing had somehow got lost.

The end result is I have to submit a whole new claim form (complete with proof of ID and enough bits and pieces of evidence to sink a small battleship) and start the whole process again. If I'm lucky, they'll backdate my payment, so I get paid for the time spent waiting for the whole shemozzle to process.

Remind me again why I wanted to go back to university. I keep forgetting.
megpie71: Animated "tea" icon popular after London bombing. (sit down and drink your tea)
Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 02:02 pm
I love Centrelink. Really, I do.

But sometimes, they make it extremely, agonisingly difficult to so much as like them. Like today, where I've received a lovely little note from them saying my unemployment benefit had been suspended pending enquiries regarding my eligibility. This effectively means I have no money coming in.

Now, I am well aware that the whole business revolves around the issue of which section of Centrelink's budget the money they will (hopefully) be paying me once again will be coming out of (I'm hopefully moving from Newstart - aka "the dole" - to Austudy). But a single-sentence letter saying my payment has been suspended, when I'm on the low end of a pay fortnight, and I am literally down to my last week's rent (I have $300 in my bank account - this will cover the cost of my share of the rent for next fortnight; after that I don't have any money at all) DOES NOT HELP THINGS at this end of the equation. Now I'm in a real tizzy about whether or not I'm actually going to be paid any money at all for the next fortnight, and what the hell I'm going to do if I'm not paid anything and what the hell I'm supposed to do to obtain the next instalment of the rent.

Okay, maybe I'm over-reacting, but the absolute terror that comes from realising I have no money and I have no way of getting any in a world which is very much geared toward needing money from people in order to acknowledge their very existence is very hard to overstate. Particularly since one of the number one nightmares I have, the really deep, existential fear which drives my very being, is a fear of vanishing completely from people's notice - slipping through the cracks in reality, perhaps.

I'm stressed, and I'll admit it. If I don't wind up getting onto Austudy; if I have to re-apply for Newstart, or worse still if my eligibility for either of those benefits is cut off and I'm regarded as being ineligible for both of them (for whatever reason) then I am genuinely without resources. The global financial crisis may not have hit Australia very hard, but it's hit our particular household hard enough that we are teetering constantly on the verge of bankruptcy, and we literally have no financial resources available to us. It's a stress I don't need, coming on top of a bundle of other stresses I didn't want.

[I'm having to write this in fits and starts, because if I stop and think about things too much, I'll wind up flooding my keyboard with tears, and at this stage I can't afford a new one.]

So for the rest of the day I'm going to sit tight, and try not to think too hard about any of this. I may have to sublimate a lot of the anxiety in a frenzy of washing dishes and cleaning the house, or gaming, or find some way of doing something to take my mind off things. Tomorrow I have my orientation day at uni, and I'm going to be absent from about 8 in the morning until I finally stumble home at about 10 past 5 in the evening. Hopefully by then I'll have received a nice letter telling me whether or not I'm getting Austudy. If not, I have a meeting with the nice man from CRS on Friday (to which I am going to have to scoot directly from the second uni orientation day, missing the social activities side of things... damnit) where I'll be able to get him onto the whole mess. After all, HE was the one who recommended I go back to uni. He can damn well earn his fucking keep.

Now, if you'll all excuse me, I'm going to pour myself a cup of tea, and try to convince myself that this will all work out in the end.
megpie71: Animated "tea" icon popular after London bombing. (sit down and drink your tea)
Thursday, February 4th, 2010 02:38 pm
I got a nice letter from the university I went and attacked dracolichs at on Monday. They said "yes, we'd love to see you here this year, here's a web address, now get cracking on your enrolment, O Week is next week!"

So I am now enrolled as a full-time student (I hope... I have a funny feeling that because I don't have to do a Foundation Unit[1] I may just be scraping in a little below the "full-time" course load radar). But I'll go along there tomorrow (bus and train again) and then over to the nice people at Centrelink some time soon (oh crap... I've just realised, the best time to go and talk to them would be NOW! before they get mixed messages from Murdoch, Transperth and everyone else they get information from, and decide on an Alexandrine solution to the whole Gordian mess by cutting off my payments altogether! Excuse me while I grab the phone...)

And having done that, I've discovered I can't actually sign up for their customer disservices online, because I don't have (wait for it) a receipt number from Centrelink for some time in the past eight weeks. I'm on delayed lodgement through my Job Services Australia provider (my next form isn't due in until about the middle of March) and this means I generally go three months at a stretch without seeing the inside of a Centrelink office. The last time I went in there was when I went to find out why the heck the nice people from the government agency who were handling the bond assistance hadn't managed to get things set up to take the money directly from my payment (which apparently needed a different piece of paperwork from the one I had in my hot little hand, and therefore couldn't be dealt with right there and then).

[...]

And now I'm back again, stressed out, tired out, shopped out, and about ready to strangle things. And I still have to head back to the Centrelink office tomorrow to actually get the bloody stuff submitted and handed in (because although I can *print out* the form from their online page, I can't actually submit it online (or at least, that's how I'm reading things - and since just *finding* the bloody form took about six go-rounds of their website, because I still had my mind in dealing with the university mode, where they go for "sensible and logical" as a default, rather than bureaucracy, where the default is "bloody-minded to the extreme", I'm not going to push my luck). My only worry is that there's apparently rules which say the government is only going to support me for so many years of study (and this is equivalent to the length of the course plus one semester). Now, over the past twenty-two years, since I finished high school, I've spent at least eight of these engaged in either full-time or part-time study. Of those eight years, Centrelink was supporting me for an absolute maximum of four (and three of those four were when I was working for them, so I strongly doubt they count!). But I am in full "dealing with a government department" paranoia mode at present. So I'm going to head down there tomorrow, tidied up and ready to face the worst they can throw at me.

Meanwhile, since the paranoia module in my brain is kicking out in full throttle at the moment, I'm currently panicking that I'll bomb out in the first semester, crashing and burning and failing horrendously. Ah, the joys of going back to uni.

Wish me luck, folks.

[1] Foundation Units are a Murdoch University speciality for students who have never been to university before - basically "uni in a box 101" for kids who are just learning how to put things together. Since this will be my fourth attempt at an undergraduate degree they figure I already know what I'm doing with regard to things like writing essays, attending lectures, and showing up for tutorials.
megpie71: Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles (Impossibility)
Thursday, December 17th, 2009 06:05 pm
So, we're on the dole, paying about $300 a week (or $300 each per fortnight, out of about a $400 fortnightly payment) in rent, and trying to figure out how we're going to cover the cost of Christmas. Fortunately for me, I've been feeling full of energy since we moved into the new place (I think it's a combination of the other shoe finally dropping - we had to give up our old place after a couple of years of not knowing if or when that would happen - and the cheerful realisation that being woken up at oh-good-grief in the morning by the day breaking through the window seems to set up my biological clock for a good day) so I decided to give our immediate families (my parents and younger brother; Himself's parents) something home-made as a way of dealing with the whole "gifts" issue. So yesterday we did a big shop, and bought ingredients for about six different types of chocolate truffle (and I collected the extra bits needed for a seventh today) and I'm making them at approximately one recipe per day until Chrimble finally hits.

This involves a lot of melting of chocolate, and making small balls of various things, coating them in other things, and chilling them in the refrigerator until they're "done". So it's all heaps of fun right up to the point where I have to do the ball making, because despite having extremely poor peripheral circulation (to the point where my hands get cold walking through a supermarket freezer section in the height of an Aussie summer, and stay cold for a good hour or two afterwards) my hands don't get cold enough to roll balls of truffle mixture without getting extremely sticky. I also can't roll balls of choc-dipped truffle mixture between my palms without getting chocolate practically *everywhere*. Definitely something to get my younger niece involved with, I think - the messiness of it might appeal to her. On the positive side, I've just completed the second batch, which are chilling down in the fridge as I type this (all I have to do now is finish tidying up... ergh). Only another five to go. Then I get to make up the gift boxes I bought, find out whether we have any cards hidden somewhere near the surface, and do fancy tags for each one (it's amazing how useful my stationery craze can be at times - I have enough fancy-schmancy pens to sink a small aircraft carrier).

Oh, handy tip for those in the extreme southern metro region in Perth, WA (eg Kwinana/Rockingham/Mandurah) - The Spud Shed, on Kerosene Lane in Baldivis is a brilliant place to shop. They do fruit and veg, plus wholesale priced meat and fish, and a fairly good range of groceries too, and it's all at nice low prices. It's not absolutely brilliant quality - the fruit and veg is definitely the stuff Coles and Woolies reject (slight blemishes and marks on the fruit, veg is a bit smaller than average) but it's certainly edible, and for the price, it's well worth the trip.

Now, on to the dishes.
megpie71: 9th Doctor resting head against TARDIS with repeated *thunk* text (frustration)
Thursday, November 26th, 2009 05:14 pm
There are days when I want to kill my partner. This is one of them.

As some of you may be aware, we're under a few deadlines at the moment. For one thing, we have roughly 1 week left in our current place of residence. For another, while we've put in an option on a rental place, we haven't heard back from them yet (except for a quick call yesterday which didn't make me feel positive at all, since they were saying firstly they hadn't heard back from our one and only rental reference, and secondly they wanted whole heaps of information about what Himself does for a living). So while we do know we have to move out, we don't know whether we have somewhere else to move into at the other end of it. Stress number one.

Stress number two: The real estate agent who is attempting to sell the place has one offer, for about $110K less than we need to clear all our existing debts. We discovered today there's a potential second buyer (I discovered this when I spotted him peering in our front windows, under the impression the house was empty). Rather than refer the man to the real estate agents, Himself has decided to try and sell the place privately, and thus save the fees and commissions.

I've already warned Himself if this backfires, and we lose both buyers, he's going to be hearing about it from me on possibly a daily basis for the next twenty years at least. Other than this, I'm staying the hells out - I don't have the energy, or the stamina, to get involved in arguing with him.

Stress number three: I went for a job interview last week. I still haven't heard back from the company involved, and I'm suspecting I'll get the usual answer when I do (ie "Sorry, not interested"). So I'm busy waiting back to hear from the recruiting firm, who'll probably give me some kind of vague answer along the lines of "oh, they didn't say" rather than the truth of the matter, which is probably along the lines of me being too old, too female, and/or too fat for the job (it's a helpdesk operator position - by "too fat" they mean "not pretty enough", or "not suitable office totty". Women are under-represented in the IT industry for some reason, and none of the guys can figure out quite why...). So I have this inevitable disclosure to look forward to.

Stress number four: Himself's parents have made an offer to us of the use of a couple of rooms in their house should we find ourselves without somewhere to go. It's starting to look like we might have to take them up on this. I don't want to do this, since at present I'm stressed enough without having to wear my "public" face all the damn time.

Stress number five: I'm unemployed. Christmas is coming up. 'Nuff said?

Stress number six: Day one of my period, and I have cramps and a temper like a bear with toothache.

End result: while I'm sure my situation has a whole heap of positives in there (as per my nice rep from Commonwealth Rehab Services) I can't really see them at the moment. All I can see is the potential for things to go very badly wrong. This doesn't make me any more likely to relax, or calm down, or want to do anything other than sit in a corner and scream for a bit. Unfortunately, I'm not able to do this at the moment because Himself's folks are over doing a spot of weeding for us (and probably thinking of me as the most lazy bitch in the universe, which is probably true) and I can't really let loose until they've gone.

Small relief: I've just discovered I can suspend my health insurance rather than cancelling it, which means I've one less expense to worry about. It also means I've another $60 per fortnight to play with when it comes to rent and similar, rather than spending it on the health insurance.
megpie71: a phone, ringing. (hardly working)
Monday, November 2nd, 2009 02:19 pm
My day so far has been... um.

I started off the day by having nightmares. Gods alone know why (although I suspect it has something to do with the raw skin on my right hand smallest finger, where a hangnail got too persistent) but I was dreaming I was the TARDIS in human form, and I know I woke up once all in a rush having thought someone was drilling into the back of my head. No, really. I could hear the drill. Scared the bzuh! out of me. Fortunately I got back to sleep again, although the nightmares didn't stop. I really should take a couple of Nurofen when I have something owie before trying to go to sleep.

The next thing to wake me up was a phone call from a real estate agent regarding a rental property I'd seen advertised online. As some of you may know, our house is currently being repossessed by the bank, which means we have to be out by 5 December, and handing over the keys for vacant posession by then. So we're looking at rentals. Given we're both on the dole, this isn't easy - I'm setting an approximate value of $200 per week (which is roughly half a fortnightly dole payment each) on the rent we can afford, and the result of the searches is... interesting. Let's just say if we wanted to live in rural splendour, we'd be spoiled for choice - there's places galore in spots like Kalgoorlie, Bunbury, Manjimup, Northcliffe, Geraldton, Norseman, and Kambalda West. Unfortunately, none of those are precisely convenient for jobs in Perth (plus, of course, if we moved to any of them, we'd be moving to an Area of Lower Employment, so our dole payments would be either cut down or cut off for about three to six months. Hoo-flippin'-ray).

Anyway, I have an appointment to have a look over this little 2 bedroom cottage in Bassendean that I put in an enquiry about. Now, given Bassendean is about 10km out of the Perth city centre, there has to be something wrong with this place for the rent to be this low (the next lowest rent is something like $260 per week, and the more likely one is $350 per week) - so I'm going to be looking carefully at the location, the neighbours, and the house itself to try and find out what the issue is, and why the rent is this low. Hopefully the issue is something liveable, such as noise, or a bad area (noise I can live with, a bad area I have lived with) rather than things like missing doors and windows, or a hot water system which doesn't function. From the maps I'm looking at (the map online, and the street directory I have handy) it looks like the problem's more likely to be noise from the railway crossing and passing traffic - in which case, I can live with it for the rent we'd be paying. Himself will just have to start sleeping with earplugs, or move in with his parents - his choice.

Aside from that, I've also been moving on to the next stage with my job search: cold canvassing. I've written up the letter, I've drawn up my list of candidates (I went through the yellow pages last week and drew up a list of all the mining companies listed) and now I'm chasing up contact information, checking details against websites, and getting email addresses where possible. So far I've sent out 10 emails today, I have another 10 planned for tomorrow, and I'm going to keep on at 10 per day until I've emailed all the ones I have email addresses for. Then I start on the mailouts - 10 per day every day until done. Once I've done all of those, I'm going to make a list of the oil and gas companies, and then pick my economy sector from there. If I haven't got a bite for tech work by the time we have to move out, I'll start looking for general admin stuff (but I'm hoping I'll get at least a nibble for the tech work).

NaNoWriMo update: I'm not doing it. Writing cheery, upbeat, positive letters to 10 companies per day soliciting work is quite enough fictional output to keep me busy. Even if it is mostly copy & paste.