Tania pratfall

2012: a summary

Wow. I last updated in January. I'm terrible. The icing on my guilt-cake comes courtesy of the fact that I've got a lifetime account here. These days I'm most active over at Twitter - https://twitter.com/taniawalker

If I don't make a short record of this year I'll regret it in years to come, though, so here goes.


I took an entire month of work to go to the US. This was my first overseas trip and it was a nice gentle start; the states and Australia share many similarities. On the other hand, I burned through so much leave I'm still in deficit at work, and I feel like the trip was a bit of a missed opportunity. I'm a huge fan of the natural world; my favourite form of travelling takes me to national parks, on day-long walks, and in places rarely-trodden. Because I was there but for the grace of a very generous friend, I spent my time essentially in the suburbs (with a brief visit to San Francisco) and didn't get to do much that I couldn't have done at home. Although your cheeseburgers are GODLY.

san fran

I did get to go to a furry con. It's not my scene, but it was interesting and I got to meet a number of people there who I've known online for years. In fact, spending meatspace time around old friends I'd never met face-to-face before was the theme of this trip, and what made it worthwhile for me. Spending time with Amy/Crow was a special highlight.


Toward the end of the trip we went to Vegas, which was amazing - I got to see Penn & Teller live! I also finally got to drink in some pretty awesome American landscape along the way.



I started studying where I work, at the University of Tasmania. My half-completed B Animation from way-back-when provided me with a few RPL credits, which helps when you're squeezing study around full-time work. I'm doing a Bachelor of Arts now, representative both of my interest in ALL THE THINGS and of the fact that I have a career now, so I can study whatever I damn well please, even if it has little application in this 'real world' people keep telling me about. After some indecision I settled on a major in History and a minor in Gender Studies. The former helps me with my writing (good fodder for stories and worldbuilding). The latter helps me question my standard lens for looking at the world. I find once I learned to look afresh at the gender lens I took for granted, it was easier to see the world with fresh eyes across a number of other areas. This is also useful for writing.


At the same time, I also enrolled in the Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, because I'm a little insane and think it's totes cool to do a degree, a diploma and work full-time all at once. This dynamite combo would come to cause me some angst later in the year.

We sold our Kombi van, Watson, to a group of Swedish backpackers. Watson was costing too much to run, and every time he broke something, the bill nearly broke us. We survived for a while thanks to waqem loaning us her little old car, which was on its last legs.



'Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine', a long-running Australian speculative fiction mag, bought one of my short stories for publication in their February 2013 issue. This marks my first paid publication as a writer. Now I have my sights set on selling a novel and a picture book too, and when I've done that I'm sure I'll set myself yet another ridiculously unlikely goal; that's essentially my hobby.

We moved from our house at Franklin to a small one-bedroom unit in Taroona. This came with upsides and downsides. I still miss the Franklin house; it was right on the river and beautifully isolated. However, the garden was epic, and becoming too much for us to care for, especially with me working full-time. Moving also substantially cut down my work commute, though again, that's a mixed bag - more time at home is good, but those long bus journeys through the beautiful, pastoral Huon Valley used to give me a lot of thinking time that I now miss.


The Taroona flat was lovely in its own way: quite close to the beach and in a gorgeous area. I cobbled the cat run components into their most epic run yet; it went twenty metres along the backyard and terminated in a disused chicken coop.


I turned thirty with no real fuss (I don't see why people are so horrified by turning 30). I popped briefly up to QLD around my birthday (which always falls conveniently around easter) to briefly stop in at dad's, and spent a while staying with mum. Enjoy this photo of the hoedown I awkwardly found myself a part of.



I wrapped up Semester One with pretty darn good grades - two High Distinctions. Now that I'd developed a taste for study, my usual impatience kicked in and I decided to try to whiz through as many units as possible, so I enrolled in a couple of Winter units. I set myself an ambition of completing the degree in three years, which is normal if you're not working, and completely insane if you work full-time.


At this point I also bought myself a very unusual secondhand tablet-computer: the Motion Computing LE1700. It weighs a ton and has maybe thirty minutes battery life if unplugged, but it's a thing of beauty because it is pressure sensitive: not via the pen, but within the tablet itself: it's built on Wacom technology. So essentially it's like a Cintiq you can carry around, provided you're carrying it around to some place with a powerpoint. Thankfully, all my favourite cafes have those.


This purchase was a good and timely thing, as I'd sold my actual Cintiq to partially fund the urgent purchase of a secondhand car from my friend Cass. Finally, we had wheels of our own again! The car was a Daihatsu Charade, thirty years old but in good condition. She is with us still, hasn't had any major problems (a few minor ones, but only usual old-car things) and runs on the smell of an oily rag, which suits our budget just fine.


Winter semester began; I took a week off work to give myself time to do the two intensive units I'd chosen. One was an elective, a Fine Arts drawing unit I genuinely enjoyed. It got me working with real media again, and I found myself doing some life drawing for the first time since Disney. That the unit took place in the Tasmanian School of Arts, on Hobart's beautiful waterfront, was a bonus. I'm a sucker for a lovely view.


The other class was a History unit focusing on genealogy, and though I'd initially taken it as a fast way to a history credit for my major, I found myself enjoying it. I studied the history of the German side of my family (mum's side) and unearthed all the various horrible things in my family's past, this time in greater detail than before. I've long come to terms with it all, so it wasn't too troubling, but it made for an insanely good essay. I think I wound that unit up with a grade of something like 92%. Flush with success, I got overambitious for Semester Two and enrolled in four subjects: a History unit, a Gender unit, a writing elective and another fine arts elective.


With four subjects, a Diploma and full-time work on my plate I began to realise I'd made a mistake. As much as I enjoyed the Fine Arts unit (which wound up kicking me into doing a few illustrations for 'Hairy Mollet', a Tasmanian-inspired rhyming picture book I'd written some time ago) I had to drop that unit as it was by far the most time-consuming. With that gone, I was able to focus on the others.



The chilly weather was perfect for bushwalking; Joe and I started delving into Mt Wellington's endless track offerings.



I did our taxes, which we'd both been putting off since arriving in Tasmania. As a result we got quite a chunk of money back and were able to mostly use it to pay down the bills that had crept up on us throughout the year, with Joe being out of work.

Then life went rapidly pear-shaped when we were informed, at the end of our six-month lease and with the minimum amount of notice, that the landlady needed us to move out because her spoiled son had demanded she let him live for free in the big house above our flat... which meant that the landlady herself needed to move into the flat, displacing us. This isn't the first time this has happened to me as a renter. I did the usual mad scramble and managed to find us a new place at Sandy Bay, even closer to work, and only a couple of minutes walk from the beach. All in all it was a win. I don't want to be that stressed out again any time soon, though.



With the remaining tax refund money I bought us a gorgeous carved four-poster bed. It's nice to have at least one bit of furniture I know will be with us for the rest of our lives. We had to start over with furniture when we moved to Tassie and there's been quite a lot of chipboard involved.



Mid-month, work took me to Sydney for the Web Directions conference, which I enjoyed until two days in, when I came down with a terrible flu. I'd had my shots, but to no avail. This thing LEVELLED me, and by the final day of the conference I had to head back to the hotel mid-afternoon to collapse in bed. The flight back home was a nightmare. Never fly with a congested head if you can avoid it; yow.

Thankfully it cleared up pretty well, because just a week later, Joe and I flew to Melbourne and sprung a ninja-wedding on all our friends. We'd had the weekend itself planned for ages: it was what we'd called a Fakesgiving get-together, a long weekend in a big fancy house with turkey and pie (one of our friends is American and misses the whole Thanksgiving thing), with most of our mates flying down from Bris and a couple who lived locally joining us. Knowing we'd have few other opportunities to have most of the folks we love in the same place at the same time, I quietly organised a celebrant just a month ahead of time, quickly found a dress on eBay, and then Joe and I went to get our wedding rings tattooed on just a fortnight before the big event. The event went off without any (major) hitches and I couldn't imagine a more perfect day: just us, the celebrant and a handful of our closest friends together, being ourselves, filled with laughter and mischief and love. Talk about serendipity - a brass band turned up in the park opposite us to practice, and they played us a song.

Also, I made everyone create and wear fake beards for one of the wedding photos.






My Poppy (dad's father) died after a long decline. I couldn't afford to go up to Queensland for the funeral, but I was glad to have reconnected with him when I visited in April, when he was still strong in mind and health.

With small commissions, I'd been trying to keep up my art practice all year. People request all kinds of things and the ones that interest me most are the non-cartoony ones - they're more of a challenge.


Back home, we'd been spotting a large apricot-coloured rabbit hopping around the place, apparently lost, but we couldn't capture him. After a couple of days worth of failed attempts we sprung him snacking on the lawn in our courtyard, and were able to get him surrounded. The poor thing was crawling with fleas - I've never seen anything like it. You'd stroke his head with a single finger and four or five would wriggle in the area you'd just touched. He was muddy and daggy and thin as a rake, his backbone clearly visible. We took him inside, bathed him (twice), tugged the matted bits of fur off him and gave him a flea treatment. I still had the old hutch from my previous rabbit, Harvey (who met a premature end due to what we now think was a mosquito-borne rabbit virus), so we cleaned it out and put the rabbit inside.


I don't think there was ever any question that we were going to keep him. He came to us. We named him Gravy, and soon picked up a small companion for him, because rabbits are social creatures. Her name is Spud. We took the pair to the vet to be checked out and the vet told us she doubted Gravy would live due to the extent of his former neglect, so, of course, I became even more determined that he should survive.

And he has. Two months later Gravy is fattening up nicely. His snuffles (a real, adorably-named rabbit illness) has cleared up for the most part, and he is the most gentle, chilled-out bunny you could find. Spud is a ball of mischief, but the two adore each other, and their gorgeous personalities meld well with those already in the house. They even get along with the cats.



My Opa (mum's father) died.

I got my uni results and did well again - two Distinctions and a Credit. The slight fall from Sem 1 and the Winter Sem is a reflection of how much I overloaded myself in the latter half of the year.

I also successfully finished my Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, earning what would have been a High Distinction if TAFE marks worked that way.

The intensity of my schedule allowed me to achieve a lot over the year, but the amount of time work - which I do purely for the money - sucked away from my creative pursuits had increasingly become a source of frustration. Fortunately, in December Joe landed not one, but two casual jobs: one with UTAS on IT service desk, and the other with AI-Media as a caption respeaker (he always lands the most unusual jobs, honestly). I think the latter in particular is going to be great for him; it's a flexible work-from-home position using a lot of the skills he developed in the military, along with his own natural talent for language. He scored 99.4% on their aptitude test, which blows my mind. At any rate, once the dust settles and we get an idea of what kind of hours and income we can expect from Joe's jobs, I may eventually have the opportunity to cut my work hours back a little to allow me time to pursue some of the amazing art job offers that've come my way this year. Yeah, that happened too. I've got some awesome freelance opportunities in my future if I can just find some space in my life for them.

On the other hand, my usual office-job restlessness is allayed a little by the fact that I get to work from home one day per week.


I'd also like more time to be active - this is something I did quite well when I was working casually in 2011. This year, I've put all the weight I lost back on. Started with too many delicious American cheeseburgers and ended with too much living behind a goddamned desk. I'm well over it. We'll see what comes of that.

We flew up to QLD to visit our mates and family over Xmas, and the heat and humidity did an excellent job not only of reminding me why I left, but confirming that I can never go back. At least, not outside of the two or so months of winter when the temperature up there doesn't suck.

On NYE we hosted friends at Joe's parents' farm (his parents were away at Woodford Folk Festival, as is their Xmas custom). We had a bonfire, many drinks, lots of laughs, and then the fire-twirling commenced. Here's something to celebrate the beginning of another great year.

Cats: The way to heaven

Chinese Customs confiscated my yoghurt. :(

So I'm in Beijing - the airport at least - but I can't access Facebook or Twitter, which I probably should have seen coming. BUT ANYWAY! To the three or so of my friends who still regularly read this, hello, I'm alive and safe thus far. But the trip is young!

The twelve-hour flight to get here taught me that I really must cultivate the skill of sleeping upright.

Note to self re food on Air China. Dear self: I'm proud that when faced with the choice of "omlette" or "(unintelligible)", you took the adventurous option, even if it did turn out to be goo with bits of mince suspended in the slippery mass. It proved to be... edible. Continue with your spirit of experimentation; it hasn't killed you yet.

Christ, I could murder a coffee. I was warned that airport currency exchange prices are a bit prohibitive though, so I used my remaining cash in Sydney to pre-buy some muesli bars to get me through 'til my flight at 4pm (it's 7.30am now, here anyway... I think it's 10.30am back home). I'm hoping my plane leaves on time, because the same thick "fog" that delayed my landing has started delaying outgoing flights too.

Oh, you saw what I did there with "fog", huh? The stuff filling the air here is to fog what the Death Star is to moons. Dawn hit an hour ago and it took me thirty minutes to notice. "Fog", it seems, is a polite way of saying "murderous smog". Visibility outside is near-nil; the air is choked with this thick yellow-gray stuff. It makes for a fantastically post-apocalyptic view, but I'm not sure how I feel about inhaling it - yeah, it's inside the airport too. You start to see it at about the fifty-metre mark. You can taste it in every breath you take. I've never in my life seen smog bad enough to be visible at street-level, let alone indoors... it's an amazing experience (but one I'd prefer not to experience for too long, for the sake of my lungs).

I've run out of steam and some of those benches are starting to look awfully good for a nap. Signing off until I hit the States or get bored... whichever happens first.
Blackadder - Blackadder: Scheming

Writer's Block: R.I.P

What do you want done with your body after you die?

Ooh! Joe and I were talking about this one the other day.

I have no issue with cremation, but because I love trees and I'm a sap (no pun intended), I'd like to be buried on my own property (which is possible, apparently, with Council permission) and have a tree planted directly over my grave. That way, my physical essence will directly benefit another living thing.

Joe wants to be shot into space, preferably in a funny pose so he freezes that way.
Tania pratfall

University of Tasmania

Oh wow, I'm actually updating. It seems tonight's weather forecast is "flying pigs".

So I've been working at the University of Tasmania for two weeks now.

You guys. You. Guys. It is ACE.

I've never worked in the public sector before this. Previously I'd begun to suspect that there was something inherently flawed in me that meant I could never be satisfied with a job. Nope! Turns out I just had some super crappy employers over the years. (I'd suspected that, too.) Oh man, guys. The University is like... paradise. I almost tear up when I think about it too much. My work is fairly simple and precise: managing and updating university websites through an excellent content management system called MySource Matrix, and then assorted other tasks that come my way, including (at some point) a couple of logo designs. In general it's not particularly creative work, but I don't miss the pressure of creating for money, and what I LOVE about this is that there is a definitive 'right' and 'wrong' way to do things: when you get it right, you know it. With creative work you're never entirely 'right'; there's always something you could have done a little better, something that could have been cleverer, some area where you skills just aren't there yet. And that's not something you grow out of, no matter how good you get. In fact, the better you get at art, the better you get at spotting your flaws - so in a sense, you feel like you're getting worse. The more I knew, the less I knew that I knew. Little bit of Socrates there for you.

Oh god, and the benefits. I'm not going to go into massive detail here, but think practically-free state-of-the-art gym, modern offices and equipment, more salary sacrifice options than you can poke a stick at, and flex-time that is by far the most flexible I've encountered.

My coworkers are lovely, welcoming people and the pace is reasonable (there's always something to do, but for once I don't have someone breathing down my neck treating me like a subhuman drone). I'm appreciated for the diverse skills I bring to the position, too. I'm being paid well enough that I'd happily tolerate conditions other than those, but the fact that these things worked out well too is a huge bonus.

What else is going on, let's see...

Well, I'm meant to finish my first year of TAFE at the end of November. I absolutely whipped myself for a fortnight before I started my new job, and managed to finish all my October assignments a month early - I didn't want to be working on assignments while adjusting to full-time work. I've still got November's assignments to go (many of them haven't been released yet or I'd be doing them right now) and then that's it. I can take my Cert IV and walk away, or enrol again next year and leave with a Diploma. I'm not sure yet. I have another option, too.

The Other Option:

The Uni will pay for me to do a few units of study per year, which is just... amazing. I'm a bit of a learning junkie. I'm considering forgetting about the Diploma next year and just taking up a Bachelor of Arts part-time (my flex-time allows for this; my employers have let others do it before and in fact encourage extra learning).

- a degree beats a Diploma
- As a B Arts student I can indulge my desire to learn ALL OF THE THINGS and take a whole bunch of interesting stuff as electives
- I'd be studying on the same campus where I'm working, which is convenience plus
- Many of my units would be paid for by my employer
- I might be able to get a little bit of RPL for my previous studies

- Do I really want to sacrifice this much time? There are other things I could be doing instead (writing, the Diploma, etc)
- I will have to put the non-uni-paid units on HECS, where I still have a $5k debt from the unfinished B Animation
- What if I overload myself and it affects my work performance? I REALLY want to do well in this job. The more easygoing my employer, the harder I want to work for them... so that's going into overdrive in this job
- Doing the B Arts full-time is a three-year commitment. Doing it part-time is up to six years

There's so much to think about. Joe and I are planning on having a child in the next couple of years, once we've bought a house, paid it down a bit and made sure we're extremely stable - I don't want my child to have the childhood I did. Small children should not inherit money stress by proxy just because it permeates every conversation and action in their home. So from what I'm told by the assorted parents I'm getting to know here (all of who are just a few years ahead of us in the parenting / settling down / housing timeline) when you have a baby, that's pretty much it for your money and your free time. It seems foolish to take up study now if it means I'll have to drop it a couple years down the line. On the other hand, study (like children) is one of those things you could put off forever waiting for the "perfect time".

Is doing a B Arts necessary? No, probably not. I intend to stay with this job for a very, very long time - and for the first time I'm not saying that while grimly setting my jaw; I'm saying it with excitement and anticipation. A degree won't move me any faster up the pay scale than hard work alone will. But then, that's not why I want to study. I want to study for the joy of learning. I've had a freaking WHALE of a time studying full-time this past year.

But as I mentioned above, that's six years of work - I'd be 35 by the time I finished the degree, and I kind of secretly want to go on to honours and even further, perhaps. This is a nutty thing to say and it'll make all the honours postgrads out there want to strangle me, but I think I'd love writing a thesis. I love to argue. I love to write. My only issue in every essay I've written so far this year has been forcing myself to shut the hell up so I don't bust out of the wordcount. Nothing appeals to me more than the idea of doing original research into something I find compelling, and being the first person in the world to write about it in that particular way.

I still have time to think about it and decide. And I can always do some units next year and, if it's too much, leave it at that or defer it until I feel ready to take it on again.

Because I'm a massive nerd, I've already planned out what major, minor and electives I'd like to do. Major in English, minor in History, electives primarily Philosophy with a bit of Indonesian and a unit on Aboriginal Art thrown in. I confess I've made fun of Philosophy students in the past, but as these are just electives I figure I can do whatever the heck I like with them. Having ruled out the Philosophy units that look too wanky (one called "What is the Meaning of Life?" went STRAIGHT out the window; god, imagine the eighteen-year-olds in that) I can see myself enjoying certain others; one on sexuality, another on ethics, another on logic.

Enough study rambling. Other things that are happening:

- My first pay solved a large portion of the money troubles that were gradually taking us over. This job honestly turned up in the nick of time. I don't think we'd have made it past December... and I will be forever grateful that this happened and we got our chance to stay in Tasmania.

- Joe is definitely going to apply for the Antarctica job. Thank you for all your thoughts on that, guys - your info and experiences really helped. The next intake isn't until early/mid next year, so Joe has a while to gather his materials. As it happens, I recently did a favour for a woman who then became a friend... and it turns out she's one of the recruiters for the Antarctic Division. For that specific job. So she's already regaled me with handy hints which I've passed on to the lad.

- Beyond that, Joey's as good as usual. Better, even. The Asperger's diagnosis genuinely changed his life, and mine by association. I've never seen him at peace in himself like this. Our home is filled with joy, every day.

- Still haven't started driving practice again. Still need a car. It's on The List, right after our remaining bills.

- Over the past few months I regained a little of the weight I'd shed. I was down to 64kg, and I managed to crawl back up to 68. No serious damage done. I could roll out a long list of excuses - frequent visitors, frequent illness, and a really shitty month where I honestly thought we'd have to go home to Queensland - but never mind. I'm back on the wagon and I've already lost a kilo in the past two weeks. On Monday I start at UniGym. Besides my normal cardio/weights, I'll be doing regular CX30 lunchtime workouts, and I'm going to try Zumba. Go ahead, picture me doing it and laugh; I do. ;)

- Tasmania is still amazing. Thankfully, I don't think that's going to change any time soon.

- Still going to America for FC in February. It's been OK'd by my work, too. First international trip ever!

- Our lease expires in December; we're looking at renting a small former church in Franklin (just down the road) for about half of what we pay now. There's only two of us, and right now we're in a three-bedroom place. It's excessive. I believe in keeping life simple. Additionally, the church is for sale, and if the owners are amenable we'd like to buy it in about a year's time. The price is approximately 3.5 x my annual salary (not counting Joe's), which I think is very do-able. Mortgage repayments would not be much more than we're currently paying in rent.

Things are really falling together. It was worth the risk of moving, and worth the wait. Coming here was the best thing we ever did.
Tania pratfall

Job news / Antarctica

I'm here because mean old hammond made me.

So, two major things: I got a job! I'm going to be a Web Services Officer at the University of Tasmania. This means I'll be updating and testing the website, managing social media, and sometimes asking people if they've tried turning it off and on again. Pay and conditions are the most excellent I've ever had, there's a free state-of-the-art gym (which I seriously need, having quit my gym for financial reasons) and they encourage staff development, so my lust for taking courses will finally be given some satisfaction.

I have no idea when I start. It seems they're shuffling around a lot of staff right now and trying to get us all on at once, so the process is taking a while. Am hoping to hear back from HR within the next week or two.

Now, the Antarctica thing: I found a job opportunity that Joe is perfectly qualified for: radio comms operator... in Antarctica. He's formerly of Airforce intelligence, the radio ops part, so he meets every single selection criteria the Antarctica position lists. The only problem is that it's a six-month posting. And there are no holidays from Antarctica: once you're there, you bloody well stay there until the shipping channels open again.

So. I'd be solo in Tasmania for six months while Joe worked in Antarctica, and I don't have much of a support network here yet. I'd also have to move closer to town, which means finding somewhere affordable that'll allow cats (and/or sharehousing...). Those are the downsides.

The upsides are that it's the opportunity of a lifetime - who wouldn't want to work in Antarctica for six months? What an adventure! It's suited to Joe, who is aspie and likes being around small groups of familiar people rather than encountering large numbers of strangers. He amuses himself indoors well and he's a total nerd for science.

And the pay is, well, a massive upside. He lives there rent-free, all food is included, and the pay $56k per year, plus superannuation, plus a $50k allowance per year. So after one six-month stint he'd return with fifty thousand dollars in the bank which, in this part of Tasmania, is a large chunk of a house.

It's a bit of a no-brainer: objectively, he should go for it. However, I'm apprehensive about the idea of being here alone for six months. What would you do?
Cat: Impatient


Right now, my life is a waiting game. I recently interviewed for a job I really, really want, and I'm expecting to hear back on whether I got it either tomorrow or early next week. I don't know what I'll do if I've missed out. We've been here in Tassie over a year and a half and I just haven't found the work I thought I'd find. I knew it would be tough - I was warned, much like I was warned before entering the animation industry - but I was determined to do it anyhow. Unfortunately, as Joe and I both only work casually (these jobs are the best we've been able to find), we've gradually fallen behind on bills. Right now if there's a bill in our lives, it's overdue - a couple of them desperately so. We've managed to keep up with the rent and keep ourselves fed but that's about it. If I don't find something full-time soon, we may have to start considering a return to crummy old Queensland.

(No offence, Queensland friends. I love the people, I just don't much care for the city, the environment, the weather, the prices, the vibe... I could go on.)

I got a wrong number earlier and almost had a heart attack.

Some truly happy news on the horizon, though: providing my life doesn't implode due to the above in the meantime, I'll be coming to America in January for FC. Don't look at me strangely; I know I don't technically run in those circles any more, but an old friend invited me over and offered to pay for my plane tickets, and I've never been out of the country before, so I accepted with delight. I look forward to meeting many of you there. Hell, I've known some of you online for ten years.

I'll be the tiny, loud, drunk Australian. Look out. ;)
Tania pratfall

The problem with only updating once every two months is it's super hard to pick a subject.

I'm here because I'm procrastinating, and I'm procrastinating because I'm in the middle of playing catch-up on everyday life. For the past couple of weeks I had three of my QLD friends staying - a few of the old Reel Time Gaming crew - and we explored the living hell out of Tasmania. We frolicked in the snow on Mt Wellington and (on a particularly clear, sunny day) in Mt Field National Park, on the ski run atop Mt Mawson. We drove to the west coast, through the stripped-bare hills of Queenstown, stopped at Strahan to watch the curlers come in all the way from Africa, spotted a whale, took goofy photos in front of Cradle Mountain, and loads more.

From left to right: Joe, JB, Mark, me and Rosa.

Why is planking a thing when there are jump photos to be had?

I've been doing well with the Diploma; good marks, and I managed to keep my righteous indignation to myself (well, and Twitter) when a teacher marked me down for using a sentence fragment in a creative writing piece.

At the moment I've got two job applications in for consideration: I'm chasing a web services officer position with the University of Tasmania, and a graphic designer position with the Department of Health and Human Services. I need full-time work to do some of the things I want to do with my life and I also need some time out from the private sector. Judging by the pay and conditions offered by these two jobs, jumping over to the public sector is something I should have considered a long time ago. Wish me luck; either job would be brilliant (but I'm really rooting for the DHHS one).

In art news, when I finish my next two assignments, I'm finally going to update my portfolio. Gasp and shock, I know. Going to give it a more illustrative bent.

In writing news, I recently finished a picture book manuscript that I'm quite fond of. I've run it through various students and teachers at my course plus a pro picture book writer and they're all keen on it. I wish I had more confidence in myself. Pretty sure that my perfectionist streak and crippling self-doubt have been holding me back for quite a while now. Possibly since Disney. I don't feel like I've done much with myself since then, creatively - too wrapped up in uncertainty and indecision. It's about time I cut that shit out!

...right after I finish these assignments.
Cats: Techno!

Life roundup

I've been having trouble keeping LJ updated due to no real internets at home - I have a little portable 3G modem but not much download on it, so I need to save that for TAFE studies. I have an LJ app on my phone, but once I write an entry of more than a couple of paragraphs it becomes impossible to get back up to the top of the written part and edit it - maybe there's some touch-command on the iPhone I'm unaware of, I'm not sure.

At any rate, have an entry now!

Studying is going well; I'm getting awesome grades across the board. Am studying a 2-year Diploma of Professional Writing & Editing. Given how easy a lot of these assignments are, I probably could have applied for recognition of prior learning and skipped the first year, but it's too late now - and besides, the Editing subject is new to me, so I couldn't have skipped it. And I wouldn't have wanted to; it's difficult compared to the rest. I'm comfortable in doing all this from the start. I'm still chasing them for my enrolment paperwork despite being most of the way through the first semester, and that's becoming urgent, as I need to provide it to Centrelink ASAP.

I've almost reached the end of my novel's draft 2, act 1. Trying something different, I'm going to go back and do an initial edit when I hit the end of act 1, see how short I can get it. Length is worrying me. I recently submitted the first three chapters to Hachette's YA department (they allowed unsolicited submissions for a brief period) but I don't expect to hear back for months, I doubt I'll be lucky enough to get serious consideration this early on, and I'd be more comfortable getting an agent before a publisher anyway. Still, it's an opportunity and I grabbed it.

Finances are variable, as always. Neither Joe or I have a full-time workload. I average 20-25 hours per week, he averages 30-35, so we have good weeks and bad weeks, but we get by. I can't work any more than I do, as I'm supposed to be studying full-time (ha!). Fortunately I have nearly no debt - just the mortgage on my little block of land, which is an investment, and some overdue rates for the same) and I seem to have all the equipment and shinies I want/need and enough money to write in cafes a couple of days per week, so I'm content.

Joe is thinking about going back to uni next year to study surveying. It's a three-year full-time degree built on a mixture of science and practicality that appeals to him. There's tons of work for it down here (and everywhere you find urban development, construction and mines) and entry level wages amount to more than I'll ever earn in any creative job, without question. So as you can imagine, I'm fully supportive. Actually, I honestly don't know what we'll do if one of us starts earning decent money; it's not a situation we've ever faced. We're not really into luxuries. Cars, for example... given unlimited money we'd still probably buy a year-old secondhand ex-government-fleet vehicle. We would, however, like a little cottage on a block bordering wilderness. Down here, even that won't require much money. Joe's taking the rest of this year to get his head together and make sure this is what he really wants to do. Three years is a big commitment, but in this case it comes with big rewards.

My fitness drive is going nicely; I'm down to 65kg, so I've lost roughly 13kg so far. Got about ten to go. My lowest weight was 53kg but I don't anticipate going that low again; I've got a lot of muscle mass these days from all the weights. Accordingly, and judging by old photos, I look better at 65kg now than I did at 53 back then. My skin then was saggier, no real muscle tone, just skinny and wan. Fitness-wise, taking up weights was the best decision I ever made. My metabolism burns faster, my whole body works better, I can lift heavy things and open jars, and I'm starting to like the way I look nekkid.

Speaking of naked, I stopped wearing bras a couple of months ago. You'd think, given my DD boobies, this would be an unmitigated disaster... but it's actually been awesome. My back and shoulder pain has decreased, my breasts sit higher, my nipples are tougher and they look and feel better. Apologies for the TMI, but I think this knowledge is worth spreading around: you don't NEED to wear a bra (although I'd recommend one when jogging, haha). According to recent research, bras are actually making our boobs saggier because the muscles meant to support them are weakening due to bras carrying the load - similar effect to what happens to your eyes if you constantly wear glasses when you don't need them.

Joe's sister Lucy is coming to stay with us for a week, starting tonight - so that'll be fun! Last time she was here we carried a picture of Patrick Swayze to the top of a snow-covered mountain, used it as a toboggan, then hung it in the ski shelter as a parting gift to others. Good times.

Due to the whole 'internet mostly on mobile phone' situation, I'm primarily active on Twitter these days. My username there is 'TaniaWalker'.

That's all I've got for today. Much affection, my LJ-friends. :)
Tania pratfall

Novel progress

I'm 25,000 words into the second draft, and have just sent out the first three chapters to my lovely volunteer critics. Have already had some lovely feedback about Chapter One, as well as Mark's usual spot-on analysis. That lad is totally getting a mention in my Acknowledgements. ;) He's put more time in on my novel than some people ever put into their own.

I'm happy with how the story is coming together. Don't have much else to report - all I've done this week is write! I've now had multiple readers tell me the work is publishable, which is lovely to hear, but I'm putting that firmly in the "ignore" basket until it comes from an agent. I'm beginning to think that someday it just might.

But then, I also have days when I despair and think I'm totally wasting my time, so don't take my word on anything.

It's slightly irritating that every time I work on the novel, my weightloss plateaus. I can raise my wordcount or drop my weight, but not both at once. Still, as long as I'm not gaining, I'm happy to pause here for a few months while I get this second draft out. I'm halfway to my target (I've lost 10kg / ~20 pounds) and feeling pretty good about it, and I'd like to get at least a bit of wear out of these clothes before I shrink out of 'em again. Still, I'd best be keeping an eye on myself; it's dead easy to slip from 'plateau' to 'slow gain' without noticing.

The rest of this week will be more varied. I'm working tomorrow and Saturday, bushwalking with Joey on Sunday if the weather provides, and then we're having our friends Rob and Simone to stay on Sunday night. PMS is bothering me, but what's new. In general, life is rosy!
Tania pratfall

Hobbit along

So I'm still alive (I think all my LJ entries start like this, these days). I really didn't mean to up and abandon LJ like that. I want to keep using this thing the rest of my life. However, having internet access is a pretty vital step in the whole "using LJ" thing and, sadly, I don't. After a month of dealing with the internet company we've all finally discovered that there is no way to connect the internet to our Huonville* house. Aside from wireless 3G, which I'm currently using... but it isn't very good and my plan only allows for 2 gig per month, which wouldn't be practical even if it was fast enough to do more than the basics.

In other words, this LJ drought will continue for a while. Sorry guys! Being down here makes for a Hobbit-esque lifestyle. I may be without TV and internet, but there's a damn fine cherry orchard down the road selling massive bags of fresh berries every day, and there's a floating cafe on the river in town selling my favourite brand of coffee, and right now there are birds singing outside my window... I'm content.

I'm losing weight (ten kilos down, ten to go) and working out. Earning a pair of biceps. I'm fond of them. Joey's well; he's trying to get a transfer from the Kingston Subway to the Huonville one, but changes at Subway take place at glacial speeds. The cats are doing great; their run is all set up and I'm in the middle of creating their sandpit. We keep finding amazing original oil paintings in the local op shops. We have a papsan lounge which we use, heavily, every day. In warmer weather we use the porch swing. We strung fairy lights under the canopy.

My job goes well, I'm paying down the few debts I had, and have begun to build savings again.

I'm still writing. Without a solid internet connection I think I'll probably get a whole lot more done. Now that the dust has settled from the move I'm developing a routine, and making myself available to work only on certain days is helping out there.

No word on the course I've applied for at UTAS yet. It seems I haven't made the first round of offers - but that doesn't preclude them making me an offer in the second or third round. If I don't get in, it's not the end of the world. There are so many different jobs I'd love to try! The hard part is narrowing it down.

The house is almost finished - we finally got a much-needed fridge and lawnmower, and now all we really need is a couple of bookshelves to handle the overflow of our respective book collections.

Thoughts go out to my Brissie friends in the middle of the floods. My parents and brother are all safe - they live up on the Sunshine Coast, and I'm pretty sure that's well out of it. But the ones I love in Bris... dude, I wish I was there with you guys! I've been fascinated by the '74 floods for a while, and it looks like this new lot'll give those a run for their money.

I'm procrastinating quite a lot on all the small things I have to get done. Must do something about that. Tomorrow.

I'll update whenever I can!