Friday, November 29, 2002
Sunday, November 24, 2002
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.
Friday, November 22, 2002
Thursday, November 21, 2002
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!)
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)
red onion (cut into chunks)
thyme sprigs (2 per thigh)
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
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.
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
Thursday, November 7, 2002
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
Tuesday, November 5, 2002
Sunday, November 3, 2002
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.
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.