Tag: who is ‘joan’

Bigger than yours

‘Look Damjan,’ I hissed. I cocked my head towards three young Asian women chatting on the tram.

‘What?’ Damjan said.

‘Her phone,’ I said frantically. ‘It’s a huge Samsung. I’ve never seen it before.’

Damjan’s glance was long and casual. The white Samsung phone had a purple protective case and filled the girl’s hand.

‘It’s a Note, a Galaxy Note,’ he murmured. ‘Like yours.’

‘It’s bigger! It looks bigger.’

‘No, I think it’s just the cover.’ Damjan stopped. ‘Joan… do you have phone envy? Yes, you do!’ He grinned. ‘You were all worried about getting a big phone and now you’re worried that there’s an even bigger one out there!’

‘I want the biggest,’ I said stubbornly.

What keeps you up at night?

Today Plinky asks me, ‘What keeps you up at night?’

It’s the mundane, really. These days, I don’t worry about global crises and whether or not I’m making an impact. (Well, I’ve stopped worried about it regularly anyway.)

Still, it’s worry that keeps me up, rather than excitement or ideas. I know people whose brains buzz with such interesting thoughts that they can’t get to sleep. That’s not me. No, I’m afraid my mental resources are lower.

I’ll struggle to sleep if I’m very worried about deadlines.  This week I have four deadlines. I began the week with one. Once again, I’ve taken on too much. It’s so easy to overshoot.

I often console myself with ‘At least I’m interested in all this work I’m doing.’ It’s true. I’d rather be stressed and stimulated by the work, than stressed and bored.

Another thing that keeps me up, but which happens infrequently, is when I’ve offended someone. When I think that someone is unhappy with me, I mull over it almost obsessively. It’s all I can do to not throw myself at his or her feet and apologise, even if I’m not sure what I should be apologising for.

Today, I will sleep easy. Today, there is nothing to worry about.

Too much information

I haven’t been paid by Specsavers to advertise for them. However, it is relevant to this post to say that I am delighted that I was able to get two new pairs of glasses for £69 (AUD122).

The one good thing about the simultaneous crash in the British Pound and the rise of the Australia Dollar is that it is now cheaper to buy things here in the UK than during my annual visits to Melbourne.

I’ve been walking around wearing either my sleek red glasses, or my chunky caramel slice glasses. Sometimes, the sides of my head would hurt. I started thinking I would have to go back to the store to get my glasses loosened. Obviously, my head was being squeezed like I had a koala wrapped around it.

After a few days, though, I realised that actually my head was scrambling to cope with an explosion of stimulation. I can now see further ahead and more details. It was this cubic growth of information was that was hurting my head.

Thankfully, the pain was temporary. I seem to have adjusted and now I miss the extra information whenever I am not wearing my new glasses.

Joan wearing caramel slice glasses

My new caramel slice glasses. I’ll try to get a photo of me wearing my sleek red glasses.

Careers counselling

Damjan’s sister Jana is thinking about how she can develop her career in the next couple of years. This reminded me of a a book called the Job Guide, which I used when I was 17 years old. Back in the day, I went through every single of the hundreds of job descriptions in the book, crossing out the jobs that didn’t appeal to me and highlighting the ones that might be okay.

I used it to confirm that I wouldn’t mind being an environmental engineer. Following this, I put in my application to the environmental engineering undergraduate course.

Having been reminded of this great resource, I wondered if it was still be published by the Australian Government. Indeed it is, and you can find it a handy new searchable e-version here.

The description of ‘environmental engineer‘ hasn’t changed from what I remember. It begins:

Environmental engineers are concerned with assessing and managing the effects of human and other activity on the natural and built environment. They apply their engineering knowledge and skills to such things as environmental impact assessment, natural resources management and pollution control…

Although this is the job I started out doing, I can’t say this is what I’m doing anymore. I spent some time looking through the Job Guide 2009, trying to find a description that matched my present job. There was no ‘sustainability engineer’ or ‘sustainability consultant’ or ‘consultant’. Is my job too new, too niche?

But finally, I found it in a unexpected place. My work matches closely to that described for an ‘urban and regional planner‘. In fact, the match is rather uncanny, considering I never studied urban planning.

Urban and regional planners develop policies and plans for the use of land and resources. They advise on the economic, environmental, social and cultural needs of particular localities or regions.

They also work on large-scale projects such as new suburbs, towns, industrial areas, commercial and retail developments, urban renewal projects and transportation links…

Planners work closely with professionals in other fields (e.g. surveying, architecture, engineering, environment and conservation, property development, community services and transport planning). There is a high level of public contact as planners spend a lot of time in meetings and discussions. Time is also spent on field visits, writing reports and performing research. Planners are also required to prepare documentation of decisions for independent review and are often called upon to appear as expert witnesses before appeal hearings.

That’s pretty much it exactly. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised, considering my department at work  is called ‘Planning Plus’.


Once again, I’ve had one of those revelations that are so fundamental that I can’t believe I did not know this. It’s like that time I found out that people eat when they’re hungry.

Damjan tells me that sometimes, especially at meetings, during dull conversations and at classical music concerts, he starts to daydream. By daydreaming, he means that without realising it, he loses concentration and thinks about something else.

I don’t think I do this. When I’m bored, I usually have to decide to think about something else. My mind doesn’t free float easily.

In fact, I find it very difficult to fill my mind with undirected thoughts. I hate having an empty mind. When I eat breakfast or brush my teeth, I usually carry around a magazine just so that I can avoid generating thoughts, which is kind of tiring. Five minutes without some kind of external stimulation is dull for me. When I walk to work, I am listening to a pod cast. If not, it’s because I have an agenda such as mentally planning my day. And when I’ve finished mentally planning then I think, ‘Okay, now what do I think about?’

This also means that when people are talking to me, I am really, really listening. I thought everyone was listening too. But I believe Damjan, now that he tells me that often people are only pretending to listen or have switched off without realising it.

How very odd! And I think it’s me who is the odd one. And maybe this is why I don’t doodle or fidget, and why I’m organised but not creative.

First tier friends

I have five ‘first tier friends’. I’ve known this for a few years now. Sometimes, I am unwise enough to say aloud who they are but those people who aren’t first tier friends generally know this. I think it’s very rare that someone would consider you a first tier friend, while you think of them as a second tier friend.

Here is an interesting article from BBC Magazine — What’s the ideal number of friends? The article posits that the maximum number of ‘core’ or ‘Premier League’ friends a person has is between six and twelve.

This is funny:

‘A newspaper columnist once told of her shock when, having struck up a rapport with a man over dinner, she was told at the end of the meal he had no vacancies for friends. He was operating a “one-in, one-out” policy. Six months later she received a card stating he was now available for friendship.’

I will add one more feature to this theory of friendship. Like the United Nations Security Council, there are five permanent members of my first tier and one or two rotating members. At any one time, I feel close to a person that I am usually spending a lot of time with. These days, it’s often a work mate.

It may not be obvious at the time that this person is not a permament first tier friend but rather a rotating one.

Right now, though, this post is vacant. Apply within.


In the past, I’ve written about how terrified the seven year old Joan was of tag games. I have grown up a bit such that being tagged by misscipher is not scary, but is in fact a useful prompt for self reflection.

10 things I love

  1. Dancing to songs with a rhythm so clear and catchy that I can’t not move
  2. Going to restaurants with my mum, dad and brother
  3. People at work telling me that they appreciate what I do
  4. Mangoes in summer
  5. Blogging
  6. Taking photos, making them look nice, then sharing them with other people
  7. Reading fantasy and science fiction books
  8. Having a personal project, like setting up a new blog and researching to buy a gadget
  9. Challenging and interesting discussions with Damjan
  10. Food and farmers’ markets

Only 10 allowed? I can think of a few more.

10 things I don’t like

  1. Myself when I forget that I don’t know everything
  2. People who use their cameras and/or camera flashes in museums, churches, aquariums, on the London Eye (this enrages me)
  3. The idea that climate change and energy is the only or most important sustainability issue
  4. People who avoid their responsibility to deal with unpleasant or difficult situations
  5. Savoury drinks
  6. Certain foods that feel slippery in my mouth
  7. Unshakable faith in the sanctity of markets
  8. People who don’t try to see things from other people’s point of view
  9. Living on a main street, where the noise of cars, motorcycles, trucks and emergency vehicles make it hard to sleep
  10. Jogging and running

5 random things

  1. Following the relative success of my chocolate ban, I am now two weeks into a ‘crisp and chip’ ban.
  2. For three years, I kept a daily journal because I felt like it was the ‘right’ thing to do. It was only in my fourth year that I started to look forward to writing in it. I am now in my seventh year.
  3. I used to think that I would be happy enough living in a rented house. Now that I’ve lived in three flatshares in three years, I am really looking forward to buying a home and making it my own.
  4. There are 136 websites in my Bloglines RSS reader.
  5. I am going to Mauritius next week to see my best friend Kate (who taught me how to chew gum) get married to Avi.

I tag…

Not as I good as I think I am

One of my projects at work is to produce a film introducing the concept of sustainability to all the engineers, scientists, designers, project managers and support staff in my company. As usual, it’s a rush job — why do people leave things to the last minute?

I think we’ve done a pretty good job in putting together a script for the film. Four different bosses have laid down the law on what the film should say. Crafting something that will satisfy  four executive directors… It’s tricky but we managed.

I sent the final draft script to the film unit . The film unit is part of our company’s corporate communications department. Their job is to turn the script and our ideas into a coherent all-singing all-dancing message.


The sound announces the arrival of an email in my inbox. It’s from Ben, the head of film.

‘As promised,’ Ben says, ‘here is the edited script. ‘We trimmed it down to fit ten minutes and changed the order of some of the ideas. Could you have a look? If it’s okay, we’ll start to put the film together.’

The attached Word document is covered in the red of track changes.

As I read through Ben’s version of the script, my heart sinks.

‘Did you see the script?’ Amanda says as she walks past my desk. Amanda is the project manager for the film.

‘Yes,’ I reply.

I have trouble with my next sentences. Amanda waits.

‘There’s nothing wrong with Ben’s changes,’ I say at last. ‘In fact, they’re really great. He didn’t change any ideas… he just made it all simpler, less formal. But not casual, either.’

Amanda nodded. ‘I thought so too. You and I, we both try to avoid jargon, but we forget how much we write in ‘report speak’.’

‘Look at this!’ I lamented. ‘I had written, “The company’s regions and sectors have each developed their own sustainability strategies to implement the objectives of the sustainability policy”. And what did Ben write? “The different parts of the company have strategies to tackle the goals of our sustainability policy…” Why didn’t I just say that? It’s so obvious now. ‘

I yowl in anguish. ‘I thought I was good at writing! But I do ‘report speak’! I don’t want to ‘report speak’!’

Amanda laughed, ‘Don’t worry, Joan. It’s his job. Corporate comms are professional communicators. You know, Ben couldn’t calculate a carbon footprint like you can.’


For me, washing dishes is meditative. As I wash the dishes, I am also flushing away all my worries. Also, dishwashing is exciting — SUDS, water water water, CLEAN! It’s like magic.

The day after moving into my Cambridge home, my housemate Di exclaimed, ‘Joan, you’re so funny! What are the marigolds for?’

‘Marigolds?’ What was she she was talking about?

Di pointed to the new yellow dishwashing gloves that I had just hung over the kitchen sink. ‘That’s what we call kitchen gloves in the US.’

I had bought the gloves on my first trip to the supermarket. Gloves are an important aid to my dishwashing habit.

‘Why are they called marigolds?’ I asked.

‘Oh, I think it’s a brand name,’ Di said.

Interesting. What was it about Marigold gloves that had turned the brand into a generic noun? (*)

The next time I was in the kitchen section of the store, I noticed the hanging rack of Marigold kitchen gloves. I wanted to try them out but I hesitated. They were more than four times the cost of the basic brand of gloves I had bought (£1.25 compared to £0.30 a pair). Could Marigolds really be that special?

I shrugged and picked out a small yellow pair to put in my shopping basket.

I have now been buying Marigolds for all my dishwashing needs for two years. They really are the best ever dishwashing gloves. Lined with flocked cotton, Marigolds feel so nice when I put them on. They also last a lot longer than the basic gloves.

In conclusion, Marigolds make dishwashing even more enjoyable.

(*) Other brands-turned-generic-nouns/verbs include:

  • ‘Gladwrap’ for ‘cling film’ (Australia)
  • ‘Hoover’ for ‘vacuum cleaner’ (UK)
  • ‘Xerox’ for ‘photocopier’ (USA)
  • ‘Kleenex’ for ’tissue’ (USA)
  • ‘Fedex’ for ‘courier’ (USA)
  • ‘Ramen’ for ‘instant noodles’ (USA)
  • ‘Tivo’ for ‘hard disk recorder’ (USA… can someone confirm this?)
  • ‘Rollerblade’ for the noun ‘in line skates’ (international?)
  • ‘Photoshop’ for ‘Digital image editing’ (international?)
  • ‘PowerPoint’ for ‘computer presentation slides’ (international?)
  • (defunct?) ‘Walkman’ for ‘portable casette player’ (international)
  • (emerging) ‘Google‘ for ‘web search’ (international?)

Goodness! Of course I should have expected it — people have written about this topic already. See Wikipedia — Genericized trademark, and a slideshow on AOL — Brand Icons That Made a ‘Name’ for Themselves (a bit US-centric but I didn’t know jacuzzi was a name brand!).

Other suggestions welcome, especially for Australia (I suspect ‘esky’ is one of these).

And why does it seem that the US is prone to turning brand names into generic labels? This is also interesting — examples from other languages and countries.