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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Writing prompt: there is no exit

I stumbled upon a flash fiction challenge over on Chuck Wendig's blog and thought it might be a good opportunity for me to try and kick my creative juices into gear. So here it goes ... this one is based on an experience I had a couple of years ago. 

Prompt: there is no exit. 

The sound as I slid into the back of the Nissan was not as deafening as I had expected. I tried to change lanes at the last second, when I realised the wet road wouldn’t allow me to stop in time, but the decision to yank my steering wheel to the left occurred a moment too late. Thunk. My little Daewoo stalled. I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, sinking into my seat. I pressed the button for my hazard lights. The traffic on the Ringwood Bypass continued to flow around me while I restarted the engine and pulled off the road.

The Nissan driver was a middle aged man and his wife was the passenger. In case I didn’t feel awful enough after crashing into their vehicle, the first thing they did was open the boot to make sure the two dogs they were transporting were okay. Thankfully, their fur-babies were fine. I was still overcome with guilt.

They were friendly enough, assuring me it happens to everyone, we’re all lucky it wasn’t a serious prang, do I have insurance, blah blah blah. We took photos of each other’s licenses and number plates and of the damage on both cars. I’d pushed in the back left corner of the Nissan with the front right corner of my Daewoo. The driver of the other car put his hand in the gap between the wheel and the body and pushed the dent back out—only some chipped paint remained as evidence that their car had been damaged. My Daewoo was worse off … the front headlight was smashed, loose pieces of glass and plastic still finding its way onto the bitumen. The right side of the bonnet had buckled and the forward side panel was pinching the driver’s door, so it only opened enough for me to squeeze in and out.

We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to call it a day. It was starting to rain again and there was no point standing around. The Nissan drove off and I called the friends I was meant to meet for lunch and explained that I couldn’t make it, even though our meeting place was two blocks away from where I was stopped. I thought about calling to get my car towed; the engine might still start, but the car was far from roadworthy with a busted headlight and a door that wouldn’t open properly. But that meant sitting and waiting and paying—and then what? I just wanted to go home.

I got myself onto the bypass again and headed back towards Eastlink. I wasn’t familiar with the area, but damned if I was going to touch my GPS after the cash. I’d been following my GPS’s directions on the way to lunch, but it had detached itself from my windscreen and fallen into the passenger’s foot well. I’d yanked it onto the passenger’s seat next to me as quickly as I could, but in the rush of the moment I hadn’t heard the instruction the GPS’s robotic voice uttered. I glanced at the screen to see the arrow telling me to turn right at the upcoming intersection. What a stupid thing to do. In that split second of looking at the GPS screen on the passenger’s seat, the traffic ahead came to a stop. I looked back up in time to slam my foot on the breaks and at first, I thought everything would be fine. But the road was wet and oily and my little Daewoo slid further than I thought she would—right into the back of that Nissan.

No, I told myself. No more GPS today. Once I was on the freeway, it would be easy to get home. At least, that’s what I’d hoped. But as I approached Elgar Road, inbound on the M3, I had an awful realisation—there was no exit. I saw the ramp from Elgar Road coming down to merge with the freeway, and the outbound traffic had a ramp to exit onto Elgar Road. But from the inbound lanes, there was no ramp to exit onto that road.

I regretted not setting up my GPS for the drive home.

A few Ks down the freeway, I spotted the exit to Belmore Road and took the turnoff. I still wasn’t familiar with the area, but I knew it was closer to where I lived than the freeway. After a few wrong turns, I found a street I recognised and made it home. The Daewoo sputtered sadly into the garage and the driver’s door made an awful sound when I tried to close it. I would have to call RACV later. I went up to my room and flopped down on my bed, defeated. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Old words in a new world

My partner and I were recently discussing how people continue to use words and phrases that no longer apply to the context they're used in. For example, I know a lot of people who would say something like 'I saw a film on the weekend', even though most movies use digital cameras instead of film these days. 

We were driving to the shopping centre at the time of this discussion and another example we thought of was 'wind down the window'. Newer cars have electric controls to press instead of a manual window winder.

There's something charming about using old words to continue describing things that have outgrown the meaning of the words we use. Or maybe I'm just nostalgic. I'm sure there's a term for words like this but admittedly I do not know it.

Can you think of any examples?

-Bonnee

Friday, June 30, 2017

App review: Tide

I've had a lot of trouble concentrating, unwinding, and sleeping as of late. Especially after work when I'm supposed to find time to study or be creative (or send out applications to get a job in my field). Last weekend, I decided to check out what free apps I could get on my phone to help me relax or concentrate and I stumbled upon a little gem.

Tide: Stay focused, be peaceful
It's such a simple app and I found it very user friendly. Tide incorporates calming background tracks such as rain or peaceful music with the Pomodoro technique to encourage focus, productivity, and relaxation. The description only talks about it being supported on iPhones, but I have a Samsung and can confirm it works just fine.

The Pomodoro technique (which I had not heard of before downloading this app) was created in the 1980s and was traditionally used to break work into 25 minute intervals with short breaks in between (thanks for your help, Wikipedia). Of course, people like to have options and something I think other users might find appealing about this app is the ability to alter the length of focus intervals and breaks to suit your needs. Tide also lets you set a daily 'Focus Goal' and track your daily focus achievements. Want to study for an hour? Two hours? Eight hours?? Set your goal and the app will add up your focus sessions as you go.
Look at that pretty logo!
I think the visual design of Tide is gorgeous. When you open the app, you'll be greeted by a description of the time of day (e.g. afternoon, dusk, evening) overlaying a simple but peaceful background image. The little 'Start' button sits there, ready to begin timing the first focus session whenever you are. And you get a nice little quote each day, too.

Once you press 'Start'? Choose your background sounds. Tide automatically begins to play the sound of the ocean gently lapping the shore, but swipe across to the next panel for some gentle rain, forest sounds, a soft and slow piano track (called 'Muse'), or some cafe background noise. I'm personally not a fan of the cafe track, but I guess some people are into that. 'Rain' and 'Muse' are my favourites. But as I mentioned earlier, people like to have options, and in case these five weren't enough, you can opt to turn off the white noise tracks and do your focus sessions in silence.

I've been using this app predominantly for unwinding before bed and rocking myself to sleep, which is probably why I favour the 'Rain' and 'Muse' tracks. I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately and my GP suggested trying to incorporate some meditation and other relaxation techniques into my 'getting ready for bed' ritual. I did complete a few focus sessions earlier in the week with 'Ocean' and 'Forest' too, while I was updating my LinkedIn profile and putting together job applications. I left the focus sessions on 25 minute intervals with 5 minute breaks and I think it's the perfect amount of time. Each time I started the timer and got to work, I told myself I wasn't allowed to look at my phone for a while--and when I did go to pick it up, it was within seconds of the focus session ending.

Tide gets a five star rating from me and I'm glad I discovered it this week.

Do you have any little gem apps you'd like to share? 


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Alien: Covenant Review

My partner and I went on a spontaneous movie date on the weekend and decided to see Alien: Covenant. I haven't seen all of the Alien films so far, but I saw Prometheus in cinemas and enjoyed the snippets of the other films that I've seen.

Alien: Covenant starts on a philosophical note, with a throw-back to the creation of David, the synthetic who was on board the Prometheus. Cut to Covenant, a space vessel on a cross-galaxy expedition to settle a colony on a far-away planet, were Walter is overseeing the day-to-day upkeep of the ship while the crew and colonists are in cryosleep. An unforeseen emergency requires the crew to suddenly wake up and thus begins the action. There is death before we even see any aliens, and although the audience doesn't get the chance to form a bond with the deceased crew member, we do start caring about the crew mates left behind as they deal with the sudden loss.

Amidst grieving and repairing the ship, the crew picks up a rogue signal from a nearby planet that looks potentially inhabitable and go in for a closer look; they are excited by the prospect of reaching a planet to colonize, as their original target is still 7 years away. A portion of the crew takes a lander vessel down and soon enough, the audience picks up signs of danger that the characters are oblivious to. After losing half of the ground crew to aliens (in both classic burst-out-of-your-body and maul-the-fuck-outta-you styles), the remaining handful are seemingly rescued by David, the synthetic from the Prometheus, which disappeared ten years early.

Naturally, the audience should be suspicious of David, as he tells an overly simplistic tail to explain the fate of the Prometheus crew. He's a little too curious about the colony mission and details like how many colonists the Covenant is transporting. I felt that the newly made captain Oram gave up this information a little too easily and could have exercised better caution in the presence of this stranger. The relationship David tries to forge with the Covenant's synthetic, Walter, is creepy at best and there are alarm bells going off left, right, and centre that David is up to something. The fact that both of the synthetics are played by Michael Fassbender (who does an excellent job, by the way) makes the audience more and more distrustful and we do double-takes in every scene where they both appear. Will David get Walter on board with his insidious plans? Will they do a good ol' switcheroo?

One of the highlights of the film for me was when David recites 'Ozymandias' in front of Walter. This is accompanied by a revelation of some of David's horrific actions between arriving on this planet and the arrival of the Covenant crew. Amidst this discussion of creation and perfection, Walter asks David who wrote 'Ozymandias', and David wrongly attributes the poem to Lord George Gordon Byron. The dynamics between David and Walter were certainly my favourite part of the film.

The death-tally shot up as the movie drew to a close and sure enough there was a false sense of security before more and more danger was revealed. But I won't spoil the ending. I liked it, so you should go watch it and make your own judgments on the juicy details.

Have you seen Alien: Covenant yet? What did you think? 
- Bonnee.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Review or Two (or Three)

It's been a while since I posted so I thought I'd share some thoughts on recent viewings. Warning: these reviews definitely contain spoilers. 

1. Attack on Titan is back! At long last fans are sinking their teeth into the long awaited season 2. I think I need to re-watch the first season to refresh my memory because it has been SO LONG. The new season kicks off flawlessly from where the previous season ended and didn't miss a beat, but in classic Attack on Titan style, the new episodes raise more questions than they answer. Things are fast-paced and tense and I have spent every episode so far fearing for each character's life (I was so scared for Sasha in the episode she featured in). After the big reveal about Ymir in the most recent episode, we're all taking guesses on which beloved character will be revealed to be a titan next. My friends and I are all in agreement over one thing; the beast titan makes us very, very uncomfortable and it has way too much power and autonomy for a titan. I am eager for the next episode, but I am sure this season will end all too soon.

2. I saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on Sunday night with my partner and some friends from uni (triple date!). I loved the first Guardians movie, but I have learned not to put too much faith in sequels. It wasn't terrible, but it nowhere near lived up to the first movie. Some of the humour was uncomfortably forces, even for satire, and there wasn't enough time devoted to building relationships between the characters, especially Peter and Ego. I did love the heavier themes the film touched on, such as the discovery that Ego had spawned many children in an attempt to create another being who could harness the power of a Celestial, and the fate all those who came before Peter had met. And a well-deserved audible gasp went to the revelation that he had given Peter's mother the tumour that ended her life. Yondu's character development and heroic redemption at the end was heartbreaking and brilliant and I can't pick a favourite character between him and Drax.

3. My partner's parents got us tickets to see the musical The Book of Mormon for Christmas and our session was earlier this week. Great seats, not far from the front, but by God the Princess Theatre needs to renovate--it's a mile drop into your fold-down chair and you may as well introduce yourself to anyone who needs to get past you to get to their own seat because you can't fit two people past each other without rubbing up the whole length of each other. It is uncomfortable to say the least. But the show itself: that was spectacular. A satirical musical about Mormon Missionaries in Uganda, it pokes honest fun at evangelism and cultural stigmas alike, with songs like 'Hello' and 'Hasa Diga Eebowai'. The cultural stigma related humour was especially uncomfortable, but the musical was unapologetic in its portrayal of confronting matters, illustrating the uselessness of slamming religion down the throats of those trying to deal with horrific circumstances when it doesn't help in any material sense. However, the conclusion which saw the Ugandan villagers find hope in Elder Arnold Cunningham's ... imaginative retelling of The Book of Mormon, based on metaphors involving frogs and Star Wars references, indicated that in times of need people are capable of opening up to advice they wouldn't normally take if they think it might help them through. In this case, the production ended with a reprise of the opening song, 'Hello', but instead of preaching The Book of Mormon, the characters were sharing The Book of Arnold. Overall, quite enjoyable and I haven't been to the theatre in far too long.

I hope you enjoyed these little reviews. Have you seen Attack on Titan, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, or The Book of Mormon? What were your thoughts? 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Inner Editor

In my current call centre job, I am not doing the things I wanted to be doing post-degree. But little editing things keep finding their way into my job. 

Last week, one of the girls was trying to find a customer's record and they told her they had a hyphenated surname. She placed them on hold and leaned over to ask me, 'Is this one a hyphen?'

She was using an apostrophe. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.

When I showed her where the hyphen was on the keyboard, she said 'But that one is a dash!' I explained that hyphens are a type of dash and forced myself not to talk about en-dashes and em-dashes. Not everyone I interact with is an editor with extensive knowledge of punctuation standards, and that's okay. If it wasn't,  the job I am searching for would not exist.

The second thing at work I keep thinking about is how poorly worded some of our communications letters are. We keep getting confused customers ringing in because 'What do you mean I won't be covered after *insert date*?!' No, no, it just means that is when you are paid up until, you'll be covered after that as long as you pay your next bill. Sorry for the confusion. 

The new year at university kicks in this coming week and I am taking the editing unit online while I work. I guess I have made the right choice in doing that unit first, and hopefully I can get a job that utilises my editing skills properly sooner rather than later. 

How are you all going? 

- Bonnee.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Research and search and search

Week four of my new full time job at a call center has come to a close, and the weekend is leaving no room for rest. The job is nothing glamorous, but also not so stressful once you push past the initial anxiety of dealing with customers over the phone. It's still exhausting, staring at the computer screen all day and getting used to the hours after the summer of unemployment. The people I work with are the best part of the job though. I think I'm really lucky to have ended up as part of a such a diverse, friendly bunch of co-workers. The management team are all pretty cool too. 

The research paper I have been working on is due on 1st March. Do you think my eyes have had the capacity to stay open after work, not to mention focus on words, which my sleepy head then has to try to string together and make sense of? (Hint: the answer is no.) Nevertheless, I've had to kick myself back into gear on the research front this week while my co-writer and I redraft and add to what we have. Less than two weeks to go. My least-favourite part of this is referencing. I'm a natural at Harvard, and my co-writer is fluent in MLA, which means we've both been referencing as we write. The publication we're submitting to uses Chicago notes and bib style, so we have to do a referencing overhaul soon. 

Meanwhile, I'm searching for time to do other things. Especially reading and writing. And socialising. I miss my friends, and the ease of meeting up when we didn't have conflicting work rosters. I had a chance to catch up with a few of them a couple of weeks ago at a book launch. A friend from uni, who is currently doing their PhD, had a novel published through Echo Publishing at the start of this year. I've managed to squeeze in the first few chapters, and can already tell you it's a great read. Go pick up a copy of Ida by Alison Evans! Now! 

Shortly, I will also be searching for a new place to rent, as the lease for the shoe box I'm currently residing in is ending in a few months. There is no way are we sticking around for another year to see if it will fall on us. The landlord has already given notice that the house is going to be demolished in the coming years and they're going to subdivide the property instead. I wonder where I'll find time to go to house inspections and move my stuff. 


What have you been researching/searching for this week? 
Bonnee. 

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