Shutting Down The Flea Circus

This past weekend, I stayed in hotel down on the coast. I’m not going to mention any names, but I seriously need to vent. The place was infested with fleas! They were all over the carpet and in the bed. I like to think that I have a pretty friendly attitude toward insects, but this was pretty much horrifying, especially given the cost of the room (it wasn’t cheap).

Naturally, I made a point of telling the manager that, here in Mornington, professional pest management plans aren’t that hard to obtain. Thinking back, I might have been a little bit rude about it, but I’d been up all night swiping away parasites, so what do you expect? Anyway, although he didn’t take too kindly to my tone, he did concede that there’s clearly a flea problem on the premises and gave me a refund.

Really, though, I should take a piece of my own advice. I’ve been putting off organising a termite inspection for a good couple of months now, and as it gets closer to Christmas and the house is increasingly filled with assorted in-laws, it seems less and less like something that can readily be prioritised. I know that acting fast is the best way to deal with termites, but what can I say?

Alright, fine. I’ll make sure it gets done tomorrow. I’m not going to be like these hoteliers, putting off pest control until someone loses their cool (fun fact: it’ll probably be me). If they can come out and do the thing this week, it won’t get in the way of anything. Termite inspections in Dandenong surely can’t be in such high demand that I can’t get an appointment within the week. I guess I’ll find out.

Tomorrow, though. Not today. Today I’m chilling out at the hot springs, since I’m not much good for anything else after last night’s flea fiasco. While I’m at it, I’m stocking up on the energy I need to deal with my sister-in-law’s pointed remarks about my punch-making prowess.

Why floating bananas got me grounded.

We’ve all heard those stories where someone’s parents go away, then their kids throw a party that snowballs into some kind of unstoppable force- well, that happened to me, and it didn’t happen in a predictable way. Right now, my parents are tallying up a bill for glass repair, furniture replacement, wall damage and neighborhood relationship re-establishment as we speak. I’m going to be paying for this forever.

My exam finals unleashed something in me. Added to the mix was the fact that the same weekend my parents went to a jazz festival in rural Victoria. So naturally, my friends and I ended up at our house the right after our geography final.

I’m definitely going to be hitting Alice up for the fees charged for the living room glass replacement, seeing as it was her shoe that shattered the glass.

Alice, my best friend, and she is well known for being wild. I shouldn’t have been surprised that at the last second some of her friends who’d finished their final that afternoon arrived at my doorstep. Drama students. My heart sank. Everyone knows they can’t just go to a party without turning it into a performance. The second they got to our house, Jo’rian feigned a fainting attack at the sight of our curved staircase. Before I knew it, there was a photo shoot in the living room, someone quoting Juliet from our pool balcony and a couple having a fight in my room that I couldn’t quite tell was real or not.

I’m not exactly certain at what point the party had tripled in size, but before I knew it, there were people in every room of our house. In the end, the neighbors called the police, and everyone left, leaving me with the most frightening mess I’ve ever seen. To top it off, my parents were rained out of the jazz festival and arrived home to me crying and scooping bananas out of the pool. Alice had wagered a bet with a guy from her biology class that they could float.

The epic garden quest

I’m about to embark on a new quest, I’m talking of course about landscaping the garden. Our house lacks a proper garden, and even though it’s going to stretch the budget, I’m sure the new garden landscaping will add value to the property. I smile just thinking of it! A grand garden full of wonderful plants and flowers, in which we may dine, breakfast, dance…anything we please. Truly, a garden is one of the greatest additions to a house. It’s like combining the outdoors and inside in glorious harmony. I know my limitations so to help set the course, I’ve been in touch with a local landscaping designer in Melbourne.

First off, I had to gather a great multitude of wood. I’ve seen planter boxes, and wood has always been involved. This I did by scouring the nearby woodlands for viable materials. I found only bark and twigs, but I was not deterred. Soon, I happened upon a decaying fence that was obviously no longer in use. I requisitioned the materials and decided to use them for my cause. Just a bit of scraping and all the old paint would be off in a jiffy. I had enough wood for a basic planter box, my strawberries would have a safe home to grow. I still needed support pillars to keep the edible plants in place. I wasn’t stupid, I knew we needed support. However, perfectly formed blocks of wood were hard to come by. With my supports in place, I set about finding the right plants. I found just what I needed along with a few other edibles like potatoes and pumpkin. My planter box ended up with several gaps, but I figured they would simply act as feature pieces until I could find proper coverings. I’m sure the strawberries will just grow through these spaces and spread out.

I now had all the making for a basic fruit and vegetable garden! I must admit I did need to hire a team of garden landscapers based in Melbourne North in order to get the pergola sorted out. All that was left was to populate it with stuff like seed potatoes, strawberries and other assorted berries. I quickly found that my plant store was very low, so I looked up some local varieties to use instead. The garden turned out to be prettier than I’d expected, with a very floral smell. Certainly fresh and bright, and that’s all you can hope for. Of course, my housemate had to come out before the garden was finished and put a foot straight through the seedlings. They had a few small lacerations, I just hope there is no damage to the rest of the roses. This is typical. Now I’ll need more plants if these fail to grow. This will not deter me. I will build this grand garden again, and it shall be more beautiful than ever before. Nothing can stop my landscaping hands!

My new favourite event venue

As the owner of a small Melbourne-based business that focuses on safety leadership in the workplace, I often find myself looking for the perfect venue to hold functions like team building and leadership days. Mostly, party venues in Melbourne don’t make the cut as my clients are mostly very professional – but the day I found out about the venue of my dreams was the day I was happy to bend my guidelines a little.  

I know that a good venue has to be easy to access and it also has to have a good name. It has to be a place that people have super positive experiences at, and I’m always looking for a venue that is known for shucking off the stiffness that some venues can’t seem to lose. I want the best If I’m taking my clients to any new function rooms. Melbourne is generally great in this way, but I need to be sure that my workshops will be held in relaxed environments where people can be at ease and a bit curious at the least about the area I’ve bought them to.

Lots of what I talk about in my workshops is about encouraging people to be aware of their surroundings and I knew that this venue had everything I needed to engage my clients. The excitement in the venue is a bit infectious, there are great views of two skating rinks that I can take my workshops in and there are a loads of amazing activities that the venue will gladly arrange for my clients to take.

Like I said,I never thought I’d find the perfect function rooms that could cater to such a  diverse need.  Here’s the thing; I’m going to have to book the venue for my son’s birthday in November this year. There is no way I could overlook this venue as one of the city’s best party venues. Melbourne weather won’t even factor into our plans- we’ll pack for freezing temps knowing  my son is going to have the best birthday yet!

Kids in Cafes? Why I’ve drawn the line

I have officially had it with kids in cafes. My own kids, that is. At the start of the week, I took them to a cafe that we live nearby to, and gave them stern warnings about good cafe behaviour in advance. This has to be done, because if I don’t warn them, things go really, really wrong. And on that very day, even in spite of all that, everything still went wrong. In hindsight, cutting through the middle man and headed straight to the oasis: kids party venues. Sydney has a few gems, and this one is perfect for  a weary dad like me.

From the second we arrived, everything looked grim. The cafe was packed with people, a huge group of cyclists where we’d normally sit outside and to the rafters full indoors. We were going to head back out when a waiter shooed us to a table smack bang in the center of the dining room. Passing by a table, my youngest kid, Lachie elbowed a paper that was resting underneath a guy’s teacup, so naturally it smashed to the ground into microscopic fragments.

As soon as we sat down, my eldest, Mitch, decided it would be a great trick to get Lachie to sniff pepper.

The third and final straw happened even before our order had been taken. I was  leaning over, trying to talk Mitch into being sensible when the table we were seated jack-knifed and tipped, sending everything on it to the ground as well. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my limit.

Marching the kids outside, I couldn’t think of anything else to save us – but then I remembered that the kids favourite  indoor play centre in Sydney where they can go completely wild. And I can refuel on coffee and cake. Instead of losing my mind, I put the kids back in the car and crisis averted, made a beeline for the nearest indoor play centre.

Are Frangipanis the key to curing the common cold?

Scientists have announced that they are one step closer to curing the ubiquitous common cold, with frangipanis appearing to hold the answer.

Translating long-held folk wisdom into evidence based medicine, a team of hardworking scientists have extracted a phytoestrogen from the frangipani plant which appears to reduce the duration of the common cold in mouse models.

Many cultures prize the frangipani plant for its mystical ability to cure illness, with the flower being involved in healing rites and even taken orally as a form of medicine to alleviate cold and flu-like illnesses. Until now, it was believed that the healing powers of the frangipani were a result of social factors, with the plant contributing little to the immune system.

The Australian team of scientists, headed up by esteemed virologist Dr Hubert Meisner, has isolated a phytoestrogen used by the frangipani plant, which is not dangerous to ingest but appears to obliterate the cold virus. A treatment can be made by crushing up fresh frangipani leaves, which are delivered to the body through an injection. While it is believed that oral treatment may also work, it is unlikely to be as efficient as sending the frangipani derivative directly to the bloodstream.

A mouse model has been used to demonstrate the efficacy of the frangipani treatment, with promising preliminary results. The team hopes to undertake human studies by 2020. Until then, the team encourages people to plant frangipanis in their gardens to ensure a plentiful supply of the plant in the future.

While the phytohormone is common to all varieties of frangipani, Dr Meisner believes that some varieties produce larger quantities.“We are looking at different types of frangipani, lulus blood in particular appears to be promising. My team is currently working on isolating the phytoestrogen from the Lulu’s Blood variety, which we think will give the best results due to the huge quantities involved. As it often the case in medicine, more is better.”

Stamp of Approval for Conference Venue

I’ve been tasked with organising the annual conference for the Victorian chapter of the international stamp collecting society I’m tangentially involved with. Don’t ask me how this came to be the case – I really feel that there are other people who are better suited to the job. But the guy who normally takes charge of it has had to take emergency leave and everyone else was too busy, so I put my hand up for it and there you have it.

My first port of call is nailing down a venue. I’m told that a lot of my fellow chapter members are located down in the surf coast area, and that the ones who live in Melbourne tend to be quite keen to get out of the city for the weekend. Makes sense to me – who doesn’t want to immerse themselves in the world of stamp collecting in scenic surrounds? So, here’s what I’m looking for: conference venues with accomodation in regional Victoria – preferably near the beach!

To be forthright, most of the members of this society are relatively well-to-do, and expect things to be of a certain quality. That means no seedy, motor-inn style hotel rooms. And if there’s a day spa on site, so much the better. At the same time, we stamp collectors tend to be wild about wildlife – we love bird watching and the like. Does that surprise you? Try taking a closer look at the stamp next time you get a letter with one on it. A fairly sizable proportion of the time, there’ll be something organic on it.

I’m thinking that somewhere along the Great Ocean Road might be just the ticket – perhaps some luxury beachside apartments in Lorne. Victoria has so many beautiful places to see along the coast, but I can definitely vouch for Lorne as somewhere in which the occasion at hand won’t be out of place. With that in mind, my next move will be to locate a venue that can do the conference catering, preferably using local produce.

Feels like it’s coming together! I was born for this.

The Family Phoenixed: Christmas 2012

I have a cousin, Sara,  who suffered lower back pain for the most of her life. The story of how my uncle Lonnie changed his career to undertake a course professional dry needling so he could help her is one of the best ‘dad to the rescue’ stories I’ve heard yet.  I remember even as kids, she’d often be in pain and though we just accepted it as normal – but not Lonnie. He was actually a practising physio, and through the recommendation of a friend, had a lot of success treating his own knee injury through a dry needling practitioner he met in 2009.

In the end, it was this injury that led to him looking up dry needling courses. New Zealand is fairly fast moving when it comes to acknowledging new and alternative treatments, so when he decided to divert his physiotherapy background to one in dry needling, it didn’t take him long to find a course he loved.

His decision actually came Christmas in 2012,  when all us kids were playing in the front yard and her back seized up and started spasming. She was clearly in a lot of pain and needed relief, and there was only so much they could do. I remember the look on her Dad’s face as he cooled her forehead and tried to take her mind off the pain. They came to our house on New Year’s day for a regular family gathering and in the space of that week, he had enrolled in a dry needling course for the following year.

Flash forward to a few years later, and Lonnie is now a fully qualified dry needling practitioner, who can now treat Sara’s pain in a way that actually works. And the difference it has made for Sara is unbelievable- she wants to follow in her dad’s footsteps and study it herself, which I guess is probably the best testimonial for dry needling imaginable.

Chamber of Medical Secrets

My sister, Katie, is studying veterinary science. This week she’s been assessing evidence for the efficacy of oxygen therapy in treating companion animals for conditions of reduced circulation (you know, infected wounds that won’t heal and all that lovely stuff). The things you get into when you’re at uni! In case you were wondering, there don’t seem to be too much research on the topic. With regard to humans, though, it is fairly well established that oxygen therapy can be of benefit as a treatment for said type of conditions.

I’d never heard of this oxygen therapy, so I asked Katie to tell me about it. She said it involves the patient going inside one of these units called hyperbaric chambers – in the Melbourne area, there are a few different facilities that have these. In the chamber, they’re exposed to air with a high ambient pressure. This is a means of delivering 100% oxygen into the body, as opposed to the lower percentage of oxygen that we take in when we breathe normally.

Like I said, according to Katie’s research, the use of this treatment on non-human animals is relatively new, and it hasn’t been clearly established that it works. But for humans, it’s been found to be clinically effective in treating certain conditions. There are even portable hyperbaric chambers for home treatment on the market, which seem to be a cost effective way for patients to access it. That’s compared with the cost of going to a treatment centre, given that treatment generally seems to require an ongoing run of therapy sessions.

From my veterinarily uneducated perspective, I’d expect that, if this works for humans, it would work for mammals in general. Maybe mild hyperbaric treatments will one day be shown to improve the quality of life of dogs and cats with certain conditions. For the time being, I won’t go around promoting its use on non-human animals. But it sounds like it’s been very helpful for some humans, so we’ll see. ‘

Doggy Dramas

I’ve just been taken on quite the runaround. First, I got saddled with dogsitting my sister-in-law’s annoying little terrier, Tegan, while she jetted off on another impromptu trip. As someone who’s not a dog person, I’m the last resort, so she must have been desperate. The drama escalated pretty quickly from there.

After Kate dropped off Tegan, I took her for a walk along the beach – I’d been wanting some fresh air anyway. I let her off-leash and watched as she ran up a rocky outcrop. Trouble kicked in when she didn’t stop running at the top and proceeded to disappear over the other side. When she didn’t reappear, I went to investigate and discovered that it had been quite a drop for her. She seemed to have landed awkwardly, and was now unable to stand on one her front legs.

I carried her back to the car while quietly muttering expletives and frantically googling emergency vets in the Bayside area. When I finally tracked down an appointment, I was dismayed to learn that Tegan had fractured her leg. I was informed that orthopaedic surgery would be required, and assured that this was a relatively common procedure.

While we waited to complete the pre-operation paperwork, I noticed that Tegan seemed to be in relatively decent spirits. This made me giggle, so I gave her a scratch under the chin. She wagged her tail and licked me enthusiastically on the arm, despite her broken leg. Finally, in that pet surgery in Moorabbin, I felt a wave of goodwill towards Tegan that I hadn’t experienced before. I recognised that the frantic state I’d been in could be put down to concern for her wellbeing, and realised that I really did want her to have the best veterinary care available.

I’m not going to mention our ‘moment’ to Kate, though. If I do, she’ll be wanting me to dogsit every weekend, and I don’t think I could handle the drama.