Friday, November 29, 2002

Kidney disease update

According to the renal specialist my kidney function is excellent, even though I have pretty banged up kidneys and a wonky bladder. This is excellent news :> and I only require to be monitored semi-regularly.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

The Mammoth book of Fantasy

The Mammoth Book of Fantasy Edited by Mike Ashley

This is an excellent book of short stories, with not one bad story in the lot! Considering that I normally read epic fantasy (trilogies and longer) short stories are a bit of a novelty, and I usually find it difficult to get into the storylines and especially the characters, but not these ones! The collection includes stories of 'pure fantasy' without any science fiction which were chosen to be not 'Tolkien-esque' - my usual fare. Some of the authors include Michael Moorcock, Ursula LeGuin, Theodore Sturgeon, Lord Dunsany, Fritz Leiber and many others, old and current. The editorial comments introduce the authors and where they fit in the fantasy genre and timeline, noting some of their publications, which I found useful (I need authors that aren't currently writing series). Highly recommended to fantasy fans looking for new (or old) authors.

Argh!!!

I need a new housemate. After a couple of weeks of see-sawing between saying he will or he won't re-sign the lease, my current housemate has discovered he really can't afford to live away from home. This is after saying he could definitely afford it, and definitely would re-sign, and asking for a new lease to be sent out. It's also at the worst end of the year for finding housemates (Overseas uni students have gone home, and won't be back till the end of February - which is when I'm having my next major operation). So.... if anyone knows of a non-smoking easy going housemate to share a 3 bedroom house with one other person, of course sharing bills and chores, please email me!

Friday, November 22, 2002

More green roofs

Canada is joining Japan in encouraging green roofs in cities and urban areas to help the environment. Incentives also exist in many countries in Europe for greening rooftops, and some cities in the US have also encouraged the idea. I haven't heard anything about it in Australia yet though. Proving this idea is bigger than I originally thought it was, there is a research center at the Pennsylvania State University, and the site greenroofs.com contains a wealth of information, but is mainly focussed on the US. Penn State has a good collection of links many of them in Germany, where the idea originated.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

The Amazing Maurice

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents Terry Pratchett

I'm not sure whether this book is meant to be a children's book. It's shorter than a normal Pratchett book, but still contains lots of social commentary but also many references to other very popular children's books. As usual it's an amusing read, and a quick one as it is fairly short. My favourite character is of course, Maurice. Recommended as a very enjoyable half-a-day read (for those who read at my speed!)

Chicken parcels

This is a yummy recipe that I stumbled upon recently, which is low fat/salt/sugar/spices, yet still very tasty. It can also be made as a casserole.

skinned chicken thighs or breasts

prosciutto ham (1 slice per thigh)

bunch asparagus

red onion (cut into chunks)

thyme sprigs (2 per thigh)

chicken stock

freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Cut squares of baking paper, enough to make a parcel around 1 chicken thigh and some vegetables, cut short lengths of string to tie the parcels with. Slice the asparagus into short lengths, throwing away the woody end. Place about 5-6 pieces of asparagus and a couple of chunks of onion in the middle of a square of baking paper. Place a thyme sprig on the inside of a chicken thigh, roll it up and place two more sprigs on top. Wrap a prosciutto slice around chicken and place on top of vegetables. It's easier if you put the parcel in a shallow bowl before you add splash of oil and enough chicken stock to fill to about a third of the parcel's height. Grind pepper on top and tie parcel with string. Place on a baking tray and bake in a 200 degrees Celsius oven for about 20-30 minutes. Serve with fresh crunchy bread (fresh baguette is delicious to mop up the juices!)

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Survived...

I survived the colonoscopy... just ;> Really, I had a bad reaction to one of the preparation mixes (Picoprep) where I got really cold and shakey, so had to switch to Fleet, and still take the second preparation (so I had an extra lot of cleaning out!). I spent the entire day in front of the heater with a rug, frozen. I had a fair bit of pain right after they woke me up from my endometriosis, which a hot water bottle helped hugely. It still hurts on and off, but getting less. Apparently I have a 'beautiful bowel', no problems there thank goodness, so the pain must be due to something else (probably the endometriosis). February 25th I have to go through the preparation yet again for my next laparoscopy (to remove the endo), this time in the private health sector, so we will see which does a better job.

The Dream

This is the first time I have ever dreamed something from a book I was reading just before I went to sleep. I'll post a review of the short story omnibus I was reading tomorrow when I actually have the title handy..

People were getting abducted by this glowing sphere with seven different coloured lights in it. They abducted me and my best friend and placed us in this room. It had a skylight however, so we escaped through that to the roof of the palace surrounded by canals and a small township. Somehow we managed to float away but were losing altitude as my best friend was getting tired, and ended up landing on a bridge on the outskirts.

There was a high bluestone wall surrounding the whole area, as well as many small quays in the canal system, where we managed to take one of the odd rafts (which consisted of one platform just under the water and one just above), before anyone noticed. We travelled through the canals into a forested area and came across barges with odd laser gun turrets on them. We managed to dodge a couple (they never fired, just were too slow to aim) but soon found a group covering the width of the canal.

My friend was unconscious at this stage but I managed to get the raft we were on to 'jump' over the blockade. However, it didn't go down, it just kept floating up and up, still going forwards past the barges. We ended up in a huge leafy tree, not unlike birch, I was trying to keep my friend warm and look around for food, while trying not to attract the attention of the laser barges or the glowing spheres that were ghosting overhead looking for us. If we could just get over the wall we would be safe..

Then I woke up.

Fitness test & gym...

Seeing I have been hassled into joining the gym by every specialist and doctor I have had to see recently, I decided to bite the bullet about 2 months back and do it. The uni gym wouldn't let me join due to chronic sciatica (had it since I was 12) without having a physio assessment first, so off to the physio I went...

They gave me a really difficult but extremely gentle exercise - tensing the trans-abdominal muscle - the lowest of the 4 levels of abdominal muscles, without tensing anything else and of course, breathing normally. I had to start doing that while lying on my back, then progress to standing, sitting, walking, everything. This set my endo cramping which in turn upset the sciatica, so the second week was not good. Toned back the intensity and everything got used to it.

1.5 months later and 4 visits to the physio, I was allowed to join the gym, but limited to cardio, abdominal stability and flexibility exercises for 4 weeks with a program suggested by the physio. Before I could join, I had to have a fitness test and a program design/personal training session to learn all of the equipment. The fitness test was surprising in some areas - I'm hardly carrying much fat above 'normal' on my torso, but my legs are at least double (and the hardest place to lose it!). My flexibility is 0, and should be up around 33, and my general level of fitness is shocking.

So, in combination with the ops and my other conditions, a gentle start was recommended. Monday 17th I had the personal training session, and used the fit-balls and various cardio machines. I had never used a treadmill or x-trainer before. The x-trainer was very difficult for me - it actually got my heart up and required a lot of effort, so this will be the one I monitor my progress on.

Hopefully I'll be able to start going regularly next week (3 times a week for 4 weeks, then introduce some weights). It felt really weird going to a gym though, I will probably go with a friend in future (another person who was bugging me to join). I am hoping that this will help the recovery time from the next laparoscopy as I will only have about a week to recover before classes start!

Friday, November 8, 2002

Arty things

Some recent things I have done... The pencil dragon drawing was my impression of a framed print I have, and a present for Bernie. The cross stitch was a present for Caroline, and is a free pattern from DragonDreams.

My Garden

The side garden has been finished, it just needs more soil and a pebble path. I am currently growing seedlings of rhubarb, coriander, basil, oregano and lemongras in preparation for planting the house side of the side garden. Sweet corn has already been planted. Lettuce and carrots and herbs (parsley, coriander, dill, oregano, thyme) are producing lots of produce, and the sprouts are slowly maturing (despite attacks by caterpillars). I need to visit Bunnings again soon to get stuff to treat the powdery mildew in the back garden, and whatever is eating the sap out of the sweet pea leaves. Also to get more compost, mulch, stakes and wire. The next major things are to chop the lilly pilly (well, some of it - scale), nectarine, kill the jasmine, empty the pond (again), and turn the compost.

More dust less trees?!

If there is a naturally dusty area, especially around the ocean, planting trees to keep the soil on the ground rather than in the air may actually contribute to global warming. Plankton in the sea feed off the dust and absorb more carbon dioxide than a stand of trees do. However, it is very hard to tell which areas are naturally dusty and treeless, and which have been made that way by humans.

SG1 season 7

SG1 has been renewed for another 22 episodes (season 7) with most of the old cast. It's a pity the Sci Fi channel didn't do the same for Farscape, but more SG1 is also good :>

Squirrel terrorist!

A squirrel is attacking residents of Knutsford, a town in Cheshire, Britain. Children are even being kept indoors for safety!

WTO vs environment

Another push for 'free trade' rules to be linked with environmental rules, this time by the EU who believe that "environmental concerns should trump trade rules. Unfortunately the USA has the completely opposite stance, and wants the WTO to have nothing to do with any environmental concerns.

Thursday, November 7, 2002

Tarkan - Tarkan

This contains the hit Simarik, recently remixed (not very well) by Holly Valance from Neighbours. This is a great mix of dance and popular Turkish music by Tarkan, considered to be the 'Ricki Martin of Turkey'. I've been hunting the original of Simarik since it was used in a bellydance class. Unfortunately this version of the CD comes with English lyrics (not Turkish). Well worth the import price!

Legionella scare

Today I was tested for legionella, the results will be in on Friday. The recent scare was based around Westall Rd/Princes Hwy - where I walk past every morning, and drive past every night. I have shown most of the symptoms, and they are concerned enough to get me to rush my test to the hospital as I had missed the pickup time. I'm worried as it may affect my kidneys, and they are pretty much screwed already - if I lose any more function, it will be bad and downhill from there. I would have been put on the antibiotic used to treat legionella anyway (Erythromycin), except I am very allergic to it (internal and external), that would have made me end up in hospital unable to breathe. So I find out tomorrow just before 5, and will probably go on doxycline or similar. Even if I don't have legionella, I have some kind of virus (says the doc). *sigh* End of semester health breakdown due to stress?

CSE1303 marking

Again, there had to be remarking of papers as tutors did not follow the marking guidelines. At least I didn't have to do much to fix Part A this time! I really feel like not employing any of those who stuffed up yet again for marking, as most of them wasted heaps of time and distracted everyone in the room. I don't feel like employing them for tutoring at all, but luckily for them that's not solely my decision. We are going to keep track of those who have been warned, and reduce their likelihood of re-employment (at least for the marking side of things).

On an up note, I'm pleased with the overall result (which I'm not going to talk about here just yet!). The final results are out on December the 5th, just in time for summer semester enrolment. (I'll be teaching CSE1303 Part A over summer again).

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Education online

Joining in with MIT are a number of US and Canadian universities to jointly make available their courseware online. It will be hosted on DSpace, which will eventually be the long-term archive for OpenCourseWare. I hope Monash gives up on the Monash only mentality and joins in!

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Communal Showering

Melbournians are urged to shower together. It's not just couples that are encouraged but apparently you should feel comfortable sharing a shower with a 'sympathetic friend'. Hmmmmm... Just a word of warning, don't try a shared shower in one of those combined bath/shower types!

Sunday, November 3, 2002

What privacy?

This is really not new, but I only just found out about it. As the Australian government has instituted compulsory voting, everyone is required to submit their address and phone number for registration. I just found out that this list is available to be purchased, and is frequently used by tele-marketing companies. This is extremely bad for several reasons, the main one being that anyone can find where you live and what your telephone number is, even if you aren't listed in the phone book. The government was stopped from using this electoral roll to complete a mail-out to everyone as the GST was being introduced, as it was an abuse of something or other. But I can't see how selling the roll to marketing companies, or even worse, companies that compile lists of people and details about them from multiple sources!

I needed to rant about this, as I had no idea that it was legal for the Australian government to disrespect their citizen's privacy like that.

Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds

Having played the first 2 campaigns I feel I can review this now. The interface sucks. I don't have a manual for this game and the hotkeys are slightly different to all the previous games in this genre I have played, which means I am always using the wrong keys. The games seem to be very time-consuming, often the opposition starts out with way more firepower than you and you need to 'just hold them off' long enough to build up a bit. But that step takes a long time.

The graphics are smooth, and the military is more varied than other games I have played (Starcraft/Warcraft/AOE/Settlers/Pharoah), but you are limited to fairly rigid unit placements. Unfortunately, if you have chosen a formation that should protect some units, selecting to attack anything will cause the game engine to abandon your formation and make every unit attack the target, oblivious to other things. It would also be nice to be able to set initial instructions for when a unit is made, but I realise none of the games I have played have done that. There are only 3 speeds, slow, medium and fast. Fast is quite slow, and slow is deathly slow - only useful in planning a large combat situation, where there is lots of mouse work.

I find the game play quite tedious, and the interface very annoying. At least the background music is exactly that, very soft. It's a real shame they didn't get the actors voices, as it sounds quite fake. I think it will end up like the Gungan Frontier - a game a played a little of, but gave up because it took too long for a game to finish. There are campaigns from varying times in the SW universe, but the storylines seem very much contrived, and most of the time you know how it is going to end. I guess I was spoilt with Star Craft!

I rate it about 5.5/10. It's good enough for me to lose a day when I need to shut my brain down and everything else out for a while.

The other side

Friday the 1st of November 2002 was my first time being at Caufield exams on the other side. I was the lecturer there to answer questions. It was so weird! I didn't get many stares of death so I assume the exam I set half of wasn't too horrific. I guess I'll see tomorrow when we start marking. It felt odd enough to warrant a blog entry ;)

Saturday, November 2, 2002

RSPCA vs WTO

The British RSPCA is going to confront the WTO on animal rights issues. Currently there are two European laws that haven't been implemented due to conflict with the WTO - the ban on snimal tested cosmetics and importing of furs of animals caught using leg traps. I hope the RSPCA can win this one.