Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Customer Service

Posted: July 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

I don’t like talking to people.  I know this is odd coming from a psychologist, but I really like that much of what I need in the world can be found online with a few button clicks.  Last year when I bought my new car, I was able to purchase car insurance in about 5 minutes online. I just got my renewal in the mail and it is higher than I excepted so I decided to shop around.  I figured since I bought insurance in 5 minutes, surely I could get a few quotes in that time.  There is a company here called Youi that is constantly advertising their ability save EVERYONE money.  So I tried them first.  I went through the 5 minutes of online questions and clicked on “Get Quote”.

I have to admit it is probably kind of sad how excited I was at this point – curious to know how much I would be saving.  I mean, on the commercial, they saved Sophie over $900/year!  And my insurance isn’t even that much now! Maybe my insurance would be free!

You can imagine my disappointment when what came up was:

“Grab your phone!  You are one of our preferred customers and one of our representatives is going to call you right now.”


So yes, someone called and proceeded to tell me what a great company they are and asked the EXACT SAME QUESTIONS I had just answered online. The fast talking, annoyingly mumbling call centre worker asked if I would proceed if I found their quote acceptable.  I said:


She laughed and asked why maybe.  She seemed genuinely surprised when I said that this phone call was a pointless and irritating waste of time.  She then proceeded to waste even more of my time explaining how this is customer service and how all of their customers appreciated that by asking more questions than other companies, they are able to tailor their insurance to the specific client and save them money by doing so.

What she should have said was “Ok, let’s get this over as quickly as possible and get you that quote you were looking for”.  That would be serving THIS customer.

Many years ago I worked for The Bay, a big department store in Canada.  They had a customer service plan that involved asking customers if there was anything else they needed and trying to sell them other products related to their purchase.  That is NOT customer service.  That is BAY service.  And that is fine – you’re a company that is out to make money – but DO NOT try to sell me something and say it is for MY service.  I’m not a moron.  And it is insulting to try to fob off your gain for mine.

So back you Youi, the call centre lady then asked the compliance questions that every insurance company asks – are you a criminal, have you had an accident, have you made a claim blah blah blah.  All of these could have been asked online (indeed they were when I bought my insurance online last year).  Why on earth did they need to be asked in person?  Does the call centre person have super powers to detect lying?

Not one of the questions they asked seemed different from what any other company asks.  Any modifications to the car? How is the car used? Where is the car kept?  Everyone asks these questions.  Does this company even know what their competitors do?

While the computer churned out my quote, the call centre lady again regaled me with advantages for choosing Youi.  It had now been ages since I started the quote process online – Just give me the damn quote!!!

$50 more than my current company.

You have GOT to be kidding me!!! The woman was ready to sign me up.  I opened my current policy to confirm.  How can this be?!  Sophie saved over $900 a year.  Where the hell was she getting her car insurance before?  The Royal Diamond Studded Insurance Company for Stupid Rich People???

I told the lady her quote was more than my current policy and that I would be staying where I was.  I heard her call my name as I hung up.

Sorry, but you’re not serving this customer.


Oh good lord….

Posted: May 7, 2014 in Uncategorized


Do it for Denmark!

Posted: March 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

Ovulation Discount.  Bahahaha I had no idea the Danes were so funny.


Journalist misses irony

Posted: March 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

There is a new app called Cloak.  It uses social media platforms to track where your friends, “friends” and non-friends are so that you don’t accidentally bump into them.



I’ve taken this pic from the article below.  It appears to track people you’ve selected and then tells you where they are.  I see this being a hit with the infidelity set.  But this is not the point of my post. The journalist writing about this app says:

“Cloak is the latest app in the “anti-social network” trend, in which online users are increasingly valuing privacy over publicizing their every move.”

So, it is valued by users who  want to maintain their privacy and not publicise their every move but want to know this about everyone else???

Good grief.


The other day I was telling one of my students that in the ye olde days, the lower categories of IQ scores were given names, in particular moron, imbecile and idiot. But I couldn’t remember the order.

In the process of searching for this information on the internet – the font of all knowledge – I discovered that moron comes from the word moros meaning dull. As opposed to oxy which means sharp.

So oxymoron means sharpdull.


If you don’t know what oxymoron means, I suggest you look it up or risk being recklessly categorised by pedantic dinner guests.

FYI, moron is one step above imbecile which is one step above idiot.


Posted: January 24, 2014 in Uncategorized



It’s not easy being green and having a speech impediment.

Earth in Love

Posted: January 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

I always assumed Mother Nature was married to Father Time. If they are the romance has been rekindled, and if Martha and the Vandellas are to be believed, Mother Nature is in love.

I’m melting. Melbourne is currently the hottest place in the known universe. Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m pretty sure this is what hell feels like.


Here’s another potential explanation for all of you climate change activists. It isn’t carbon pollution. Mother nature has just hit menopause. And these 5 day heat waves are hot flashes on a planetary level. My menopause theory would explain the global hormone fluctuations seen in the catastrophic weather events. Think about it people. Floods are like random crying jags. Earthquake like anger erupting.

Whatever the cause, I need it to stop. My 15 minute walk to work has become abject torture. And not just because of the searing heat – heat that makes your skin prickle within seconds of stepping outside. But also because in Melbourne, on garbage day, people put their rank, rotting garbage bins, out on the front streets.


The olfactory assault is unprecedented. I have a very sensitive nose and I’ve smelled some pretty disgusting smells, but this..this actually stops my breath. As if my diaphragm has kindly decided to spare my nose and just stops inhaling, mid breath. Its kind of like being punched in the nose and the solar plexus at the same time.

As you know, I chose my apartment for its character. So needless to say, it does not have air-conditioning. So after struggling home, skin prickling, nose burning and diaphragm spasming, I arrive to a very large pizza oven. The only thing that got me through the evening?


I seriously need to take more care in choosing where I live next time.

I cannot believe I have 2 more days of this to go. My urge to get Mother Nature onto some HRT is only quelled by the increased cancer risk – in earth terms, more humans.  And I like earth too much to do that to her.

What’s My Age Again?

Posted: January 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

This morning, as my bones creaked and groaned getting out of bed, I started to think about my age.

I’m 43.  I’ve never felt the need to lie about my age. Well, at least not to make myself younger. I cannot deny that I have considered saying I’m older than I am, just to hear someone say “You look fantastic!”

I’ve done a great deal of research with older adults and it seems that very few people feel their age.  I recall asking one woman at what ages she thought a person became old. She replied, “As soon as they think they’re old”.

Age, like everything else is relative and I think the experience of age is quite fluid. Take for instance an interaction with my young neighbour. He was telling me he would be having friends over for NYE drinks. I think it then occurred to him it would only be polite to invite me as well. I’m sure he was relieved when I declined with “That’s very kind of you, but I try not to hang around with people too much younger than me or I just feel like someone’s mom.”

I move between worlds that really mess with my sense of how old I am. At the university I am surrounded by young people who make me feel very old. Even compliments can have a backhandedness to them. Once among a ream of anonymous student evaluations I found such an example, “Marry me Dr. B.  I’ll take care of you in your old age.”  I suddenly felt like the old dog at the RSPCA. I moved from being the object of desire to the object of altruism in 13 words.

But then I go and work with older adults in my clinical and research work and I feel quite young again.  I’ve been complimented on my beauty (could be cataracts, but who cares? I’ll take it). I’ve been told my hair style is very modern. And I’m nearly always referred to as a girl, “Ah, you’re the girl from the university.”

This term is in turn completely counteracted by the comment of a pimply faced youth at the record store (although my age is pretty apparent calling it a record store) who viewed my purchases with surprise and said, “Nice choice lady.” Which as we all know is equivalent to, “Nice choice, grandma.”

So back and forth it goes. I suppose that is why this is called middle age. The interactions hover around the mean and I have not had experiences at the extremes – no one has invited me to a rave and no one has offered to help me across the road.

I don’t know if I feel 43. The only 43 I’ve ever felt is my own. I’m sure my aches and pains are due to my mattress and not my age. And I’m even more sure that making such excuses is not a sign of getting older.

Anthropomorphising is the attributing of human characteristics to non-human objects. Ranging from objects that are similar to humans, such as animals, to those that are decidedly not, like lamps.

One of my favourite tv commercials of all time is one from Ikea, which illustrates this phenomenon brilliantly.

Some might argue that the music and staging with the depressing rain creates the sense that this poor lamp has feelings.  But consider this short video clip.

I use this video clip in talks I give to various groups and people from 8 to 80 are able to articulate the story that they see. They are able to attribute personality traits, thoughts and emotions to the characters. This is truly astounding when you consider the actual content of the clip – lines and shapes moving about on a screen!

Humans are exceptionally good at anthropomorphising because we are painfully egocentric.  This is the way we are, therefore everything under the sun must be too.  We don’t actually know the experiences of other things, so we project our own onto them as our best guess. Dogs, creatures that don’t even understand not to look at your hand when you are pointing to something, through the absurdity of anthropomorphisation have deep and complex thoughts about the world.  Even more strangely they can be quite critical if they spy you doing something stupid.  I’m pretty sure I’ve had a cat roll her eyes at me.  The mind boggles at what she could have been thinking. Whatever it was could probably be summed up with “stupid human”.

The truth is, we’ll never know what cats are thinking. We don’t even know if they think as we define it – their brains are the size of walnuts for pity’s sake!

Well, I’ve taken this absurdity one step further.  I’ve attributed a tree with abilities that even humans don’t possess.


Yes, telepathy.

There is a tree I pass every day on the way to work.  A very strange tree, of the like I’ve never seen before.


It has very rough, splintered bark.


In the winter, when it had no leaves, I had the thought that it was ugly.

And then I felt guilty. As if it could read my thoughts AND feel hurt by them.

To this day I feel a little bad when I walk past it. I tried to think better of it as spring arrived and it grew leaves and blossomed with strange, white, puff-ball flowers.

It is absolutely absurd to think the tree could possibly know that I thought it was ugly, let alone care! And that I mentally tried to make amends.

And if it did, it would take one look at me and think “Whatever, have you seen your hair?”

Further proof that I am indeed crazy.


Posted: December 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

Well. There it was. I have 12 hours left of 2013 and it is time to reflect on what has been quite an action packed year.

It began with my family in Canada. I think I need to go back every once in a while to remind me what winter is all about.  I’ve said it before and I mean it, I’m probably more cold in Australian winters because they are completely in denial of their weather and refuse to acknowledge proper heating and insulation. But there is something about the biting cold in an Albertan winter that is truly unique.  The bracing wind like sandpaper on your skin. The same wind that makes your eyes water. Though lord knows how it would be evolutionarily adaptive to have frozen drops of water on your eyelashes.

Despite the freezing cold, I made my Dad take me to my favourite place on earth – Heritage Park in Calgary. Seriously, it is my favourite place ever. Only to be made better if they banned children. Alas because it was the dead of winter, and only open for a special Christmas event, many of the areas were not open.  The trains are by far the best part of the entire park and they were very sadly not open for viewing. But I did get this amazing view of the Glenmore Reservoir.


These beautiful winter scenes make the snotcicles almost bearable. This trip I tried to soak up everything I had been missing. This meant a Tim Horton’s double-double every day.  Hawkins Cheesies. And chicken wings that aren’t $4 each. And what is more Canadian that dogsledding!?


This was an amazing day.  The crisp blue skies with the white dreamy clouds set the perfect stage for the majesty of the mountains. Despite nearly freezing my butt off, it was a truly spectacular day.

The surprise of the day? My guide was Australian. Yep. Australian.

Later that month I returned to North America for job interviews in Maine and Boston.  I really, really wanted the Maine job, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. But the visit wasn’t wasted. I got to experience one of the worst snow storms on record and spent an entire day in a hotel.

While I didn’t land the job in Maine, I did get a new job in Melbourne, the best city in Australia.

I chose my apartment for it’s character. It is an old, Art Deco building with curved walls and an amazing old phone box.


Alas, character doesn’t keep you warm, and while this place is very cool, it is also very cold. When it is 6 degrees outside, it is 6 degrees in here.  There were even some days when I’m pretty sure it was colder inside that it was outside!

Within weeks of moving in, I hopped on a plane to Barcelona for a conference and foolishly agreed to rent a car and drive to Munich.  I’m pretty sure any other mode of travel would have been easier and cheaper. Seriously.

The highlight of the trip was Zermat, Switzerland. Despite our somewhat confused arrival.  Moments before I noted that the GPS said we had 16kms to go, but that our arrival time would still be an hour away.  Even the worst, windiest, hair raising mountain passes had been faster than that! Suddenly, the GPS announced that we had reached our destination but we struggled to spy our hotel. After circling the block a few times, we decided to park go into a different hotel to ask for directions. We were informed “You can’t drive to Zermat”.  Wha?

Apparently, our “destination” was the train station across the road.  Turns out, the ascent to Zermat is so steep and treacherous that driving is not a good idea.


The most amazing thing was that we arrived in Zermat exactly when the GPS said we would!  I loved Zermat. It was like going home. The mountains are just so breathtaking and the Matterhorn did not disappoint.


An unexpected bonus of trekking through the Swiss Alps? You can blame the thin air for gasping and wheezing and having to stop every 20 feet.

When I returned I settled into work and my new life in Melbourne, which has no shortage of amusement.


Melbourne being a much older city than the one I come from, it has lots of ye olde stuff. Which I like, as you can see by my selection of apartment.


Excuse me, I need to use the convenience. ahem.

I think it’s very fitting to begin the year in a Canadian winter and to end it with an Australian summer.  A lot has happened this year and I look forward to 2014 with much curiosity.

I wish you all the best for the new year. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!