Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Knitting back in vogue

It looks like knitting is popular once again, though this time groups of knitters are meeting in pubs. One member of Knit and Purl has ambitions to knit a 15 foot tea cosy for Federation Square. Neat idea!

X rated robot

Researchers in robotics at the University of Reading have created an X rated robot. Really it's just a fairly innocuous robot head that can follow people around the room and record reactions (sight, sound, infrared, etc). The Ethics department decided that it was too scary and anyone under 18 is required to have their guardian's signed consent to view it, however I think it's quite cute, especially the blue eyes. I wonder what would happen to the movie rating system if research Ethics departments took over??!

Eye Among the Blind, by Robert Holdstock

Robert Holdstock - Eye Among the Blind

This is an excellent book, with a well thought out storyline and an intriguing premise. It is Holdstock's first novel, and is a fairly short almost pure science-fiction story, quite different from his later mythological/fantasy novels. It's strange to see how Final Fantasy (the movie) is similar to this story, although Holdstock seems to be more jaded with typical human behaviour than the Final Fantasy authors (I don't blame him either). Although this is set on another planet, some of the ecological ideas should be applied back on Earth in my opinion. The only thing I would have preferred was a clearer description of the Fear, and have noticed a couple of people around the web referring to it since finishing the book. Highly recommended!

Monday, July 28, 2003

Whale Rider

Based on the book: The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera, and enhanced by the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by Lisa Gerrard, Whale Rider was very powerful and sad. Again the dysfunctional family life struck home, but the sarcastic moments made it a lot lighter. The acting was masterful and the story was very different to most of the films that are being released, making it stand out from this year's releases.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Own domain

I'm getting my very own domain : nifwlseirff.net I feel geeky! But at least I can get all my non-Monash stuff away from Monash. New acceptable use policies get introduced every few months and each time cut further and further into using Monash resources for anything but work. Thank goodness I'm not using any of the site-licensed Microsoft products - they were threatening to remove the operating system from users who used it for personal mail/web browsing, anything at all!

This should be set up vaguely (hopefully) in a couple of weeks, and then the personal and health sections and this blog will be deleted from my CSSE site. Now I really need to get stuck into honours work. 2 cancelled lectures in the first two weeks of uni means I really haven't got into a rhythm yet, still floating around feeling quite lost. I also start teaching next week - 300 first year programming students! Eeek!

The Hours

This was a very deep and moving movie with many layers. It didn't actually make that much sense to me until we approached the end and all the strands were tied together a lot tighter. I hadn't read anything by Virginia Woolf so I had no preconceived ideas about how her writing should be set to screen, or even what she wrote about. I will be looking up some of her books now. The message that everyone has a choice about their lives and how they live them, struck home rather strongly, as this is what I fight with my family about all of the time. The music by Philip Glass pulled the movie along and added so much to the already excellent performances by the three main actresses. Definately a movie and soundtrack that I will be buying.

GM Crop approved

The Australian government has just approved the first genetically modified (GM) food crop - canola. I think that the GM crop debate should have been thrown open to a referendum, or at the very least, a decision by all the farmers that may be affected. I'm appalled that this hasn't made a larger and louder impact in the news. Even though some states have or are planning moratoriums for a couple of years, contamination of non-GM crops can occur as 'trials' are allowed Australia wide. Stupid......

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Musical people...

There is a discussion on Korner at the moment about who could teach what at the 'Korner school', and at some stage music and sports came up. I'm woefully inadequate for teaching sport, but have taught music for a bit, and can probably teach most instruments :>

However, that sent me down memory lane to when the drama department and a small subset of the music department put on the musical Busy Malone (I was in year 8, and it was the only one we got to do, thanks to Kennet/Unions cancelling all music/drama/outside school activities). The people who were in the little band were incredibly talented, and we (nearly) all played multiple instruments during the course of the show. There were:

Mr Rowlands - conductor, keyboard

Ms Walker - keyboard, cello, bass guitar

Gareth - guitar, bass guitar, banjo

Me - keyboard, clarinet (solo!), bass clarinet, violin (solo!)

Paul - dedicated drum kit

Stuart - visiting trumpeter (one of the three nights)

It was the most difficult yet the most fun thing I did with my music, apart from when I performed with the Grainger wind symphony (timpani and keyboard percussion). One of the scariest points was where I had a violin string snap on me during the middle of a piece - Mr Rowlands switched to keyboard at that point, and I frantically restrung and tuned the treacherous instrument.

Ahhh the good old musical days... I miss them.

Level of hell...

Cute quiz decided I wasn't all that bad: The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo! Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test

Description from the test site
"Charon ushers you across the river Acheron, and you find yourself upon the brink of grief's abysmal valley. You are in Limbo, a place of sorrow without torment. You encounter a seven-walled castle, and within those walls you find rolling fresh meadows illuminated by the light of reason, whereabout many shades dwell. These are the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, unbaptised children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven. You share company with Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, and Aristotle. There is no punishment here, and the atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad."

Meh...

I was thinking about posting a rant today, but my head is too foggy and I'm too exhausted to work up the energy to do it. So I'll just post a warning to those who have new (hard) insteps. Break them in very gradually, and don't walk for long distances for a while, or you will end up with deep huge blisters covering the soles of your feet! Also, don't swap from that to non-supportive shoes (they need to contain some arch support) and do a lot of walking - that will most likely severely hurt your ankles and calves. I speak from very recent experience here....

Monday, July 21, 2003

Pep talk

I just had a 'phone' meeting with Linda, who reminded me of a couple of points that I had really forgotten about, or never thought of. The main one being that I am doing honours primarily for myself, which is quite different to how I had been seeing it.

Part of the reason I am so dis-motivated is due to the incredible drop in quality of students and tutors, something along the lines of 'why should I try my damnedest to create a good product that will help them if they are unwilling to put the effort in to help themselves'. This feeling was amplified enormously when using exactly the same assignment and marking guide as last year for CSE1304, we would have had an 80% fail rate had we not changed the marking scheme.

So..... I have to try to turn my thinking around to focusing on how honours will help me have more choices in the future. This will be difficult.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

LotR coins

New Zealand is releasing coins featuring many designs from Lord of the Rings as legal tender. Just one more reason to move there ;>

Gollum Statue

Weta have released a life-sized gollum statue at the 2003 Comic Con. Apparently he had his own seat on the plane crossing.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Comfort food

I freaked my mum out today making pumpkin soup. The way I do it is I chop up half a butternut pumpkin and a large sweet potato and boil them in lightly salted water till soft. Sometimes I add one finely chopped and sauteed leek. Once all are soft, drain but leave in the saucepan, add leeks, then mash.

Then add a couple of tablespoons of nuttelex, and enough soy milk, freshly ground sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and ground cumin till desired consistency and taste is reached. Obviously you can substitute table salt, pre-ground pepper, butter and milk, but it isn't as good or dairy free.

I typically add 1-2 tbsp's of cumin as I love this spice, this time I up-ended the cumin bottle (had about 1.5 Tbsps in it) and completely shocked mum. It was fun (everyone likes shocking their mothers), and she even liked the taste (suprise)!

Now that my bread has cooked, I'm eating the yummy soup with freshly baked seeded bread with garlic bread mix sprinkled on it (buttered first, of course). Just what I needed after a visit from my family. Now I'm just waiting for a delicious strawberry moo-free smoothie to turn up, courtesy of the wonderful, special Bernie.

It's a pity he doesn't like pumpkin.....

More cases of chicken pox

Two friends of my brother's have become ill with something that sounds very similar to my virus (which is most probably chicken pox). They also think it's chicken pox, and they are infected for the second time in their life. Perhaps there is a new strain going around that doesn't care if you have been infected before? At least mine seems to be receeding now, and is no longer itchy, although I think that has more to do with the amount of other pain I am in, which is taking my complete concentration not to scream. I'll be back at uni for work next week in any case.

Chinese medicine recall

This is really just a note to myself, that the medicines recalled contain ingredients suspected for causing renal failure in 70 people in Belgium. The recall was in NZ but many of the medicines were tested in Australia. NZ MOH News article, images of products. These recalls were issued January 2003.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Music as a profile

I have just stumbled upon a ridiculous article explaining that: "Almost anything about a man or a woman - from their looks, intelligence and fitness, to politics, wealth and even conversational ability - can be gleaned from the tunes they enjoy most." I wonder what they would make of my collection: Frente, Dead Can Dance, STOA, TombRaider, Lord of the Rings, Labyrinth, Dune, Seal, Tea Party, Midnight Oil, Tarkan, Bend it like Beckham, Icehouse, loads of classical, many more varied soundtracks and of course many more.....

Calamine

I'm going to have to find a new face soap after this, mine is based on calamine, and I am already completely sick of it. The bottles of calamine lotion available in Coles are made for kids and kid-sized chicken pox infections. I have already gone through about a quarter of the bottle in two applications, covering me in the stuff. I don't want to do my cross stitch because my hands are so chalky. Oh yeah, calamine is also cold and wet, my least favourite combination (and needs time to dry before putting on clothes == even more frozen!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Spotty!

The allergic reaction is not an allergic reaction in my opinion. I think I have measles or chicken pox. The red spots are turning into raised welts with blisters, and I'm feeling generally crap. So... I have to miss the workshops I was going to do, and not go in to work till next week. With all three, allergy, measles and chicken pox, once the spots show, time is the only cure. So time and rest it is. Now just waiting to hear from the acupuncturist if I should keep the appointment on Thursday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Something old, something new

I lost the day today to something completely new (and the remnants or beginnings of a cold/throat virus of some sorts). This is the first time that I have ever had a rash reaction that covers the majority of my skin, thankfully not my face. All the old ezcma spots are horribly red, dry, itchy and peeling, and I'm covered in little red bumps. An allergy to something.

The acupuncturist thinks it might just be a detox reaction, the herbs finally beginning to work. I see her on Thursday to try muscle testing to find out the cause (this will be interesting). My housemate is sick as a dog with a very bad cold/sinus thing, causing many bad nosebleeds, stuffy head and a shocking cough. I'm desperately hoping I can avoid it, but have had to stop taking ease-a-cold tablets in case I'm reacting to something in that. If I do get it, it will either be a shocker of a sinus infection or drop to bronchitis/fluid on the lungs.

I am too run down. Am also off meat (apart from fish) for a bit, as meat often has antibiotic residues in it. In any case, I perplexed the doctor once again, seems to happen every time I'm in there to be diagnosed with something.

Sleep now, with a rotten head and frozen toes.....

Monday, July 14, 2003

Productive days

For a no study day, yesterday was very productive, even though I got through 6 (slow) missions of Dune 2000. I completed the next two colours in the wing of the dragon (only about 20 left), made a pair of cute PJs, fixed my old ones, fixed a top and pillow cases. It's now down to a black 'pettiskirt' in my planned sewing cabinet (though many many other projects are yet to be planned). Friday was doing nothing much, Thursday I prepared the end garden bed (of course I hurt my back and hamstrings, and for some reason my abs - I felt like I had done sit-ups, which is not good for the adeno pain). I actually motivated myself past the pain and exercised this morning, so I feel like I'm on an upwards turn, which may indeed see some honours being done soon.

Unfortunately I have until Wednesday to get 2 papers, a lit review and the experiment polished and webified, which I know is completely impossible. I might be able to get one paper done by then if I concentrate. In any case, I still feel accomplished.

Musical 'Mare?

I seem to be having a spate of dreams that are unusual. This one was a performance with a brass band, Mr Cohen conducting, and me playng clarinet (which as you can probably guess, stood out like crazy). I haven't had a musical dream since I was in early high school, especially where I could hear the band and myself performing (wrong notes included). For some reason the depressed feeling stayed throughout the dream, more like panic around the family (which matches my current feelings). Other than those feelings, and wanting someone to be there who wasn't, it wasn't a bad dream.

As we arrived at the venue there was a belly dancing convention winding down, neat costumes, jingling coins, people in small groups dancing to their own rhythms, and a stall that was closing. I was dressed in my usual warm layers of black, so stood out like a dead thumb as I walked up to the stall owner - I wanted a hip scarf edged in silver coins, but no luck, all the scarves were sold. For some reason I ended up with a bottle of eucalyptus oil. Back with the band, we started to set up the stage and warm up as the audience slowly filled the small auditorium. I did perform rather well even when I haven't played for years (I was extremely worried before the performance). It was strangely swapping between a rehearsal and performance the whole time.

I kept looking for Bernie, but couldn't see him, although I could see my mum, brother and nanna very clearly (which upset me, as I didn't want them there). Suddenly the curtains were closed and the audience gone, and everyone was half packed (the auditorium closed at 5, and needed half an hour to pack up).

Mr Cohen and I were discussing using Golliwogs Cake Walk (piano piece) arranged for concert band, but he thought it was too easy, so I suggested doing variations on the theme. When I continued packing up I was concerned that I seem to have been playing on a 'half' strength reed, which would mean I couldn't get to the second register, let alone high in the third (which I had got to). And I had a decent tone throughout the performance, which meant a reed strength of 2.5 at least.

It suddenly switched to an actual memory, where Adam started drumming Golden Wedding, to which I started playing the clarinet lead, surprising most of the people there (who didn't think I could do it). The whole piece actually got played, and I'm left with it stuck in my head.

Sudden switch to waiting in the (now Monash) carpark, desperately trying to avoid my family, looking for a lift. Some ex-high-school people were congratulating themselves on saving a fortune and ripping something/someone off. The rain started misting, and I was still standing in the near empty car park with all my instruments.

Finally a familiar beetle appeared, but no driver. Panicky feelings of being forgotten got worse.

Then I woke up, still with those feelings. *bah*

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Smorgasboard of nightmares

Don't you just love those nights where you wake up from one nightmare to finally get back to sleep and be dropped into another? My favourite...

I had the usual spider infestation one where they were trying to eat me, egg sacs lying around the place, baby spiders carpeting all surfaces when the sacs broke. And me armed with a can of spider-killer spray which makes me horrifically asthmatic for the rest of the day (kinda appropriate as I got asthma for the first time in months two days ago). This was as usual set in my childhood home, where there were actual white tail spider nests in the roof or under the house (I was regularly killing 2-3 semi to full grown male whitetails daily for a couple of years).

Then I had a new one where I had vertical holes (slits) in my teeth that were just getting bigger, and would probably need to be replaced with a cap. I've never had one about my teeth before. For those who knew me a long long time ago, they would have seen me with rather mottled teeth (fluoride poisoning and too many antibiotics as a toddler). I got all the front top ones faced, about the time I had 6 teeth out and a plate to straighten the top ones. My dentist died before he could do miracles on the bottom teeth. In any case, the facings always broke, especially when playing clarinet, and were expensive to fix.

So when I got my bottom wisdom teeth out, I had all the facings sanded off completely. Surprisingly once the surface of my teeth was removed as well, we found that there was no mottling - it was only on the surface. A couple of years later I was getting horrible dark lines appearing as not all of the facing had been removed, thus more sanding, which hurt this time (too much of my tooth removed?) It's nearly 6 months since I had my top wisdom teeth out, maybe it was a reminder dream to go back to the dentist?

Of course there were the usual dreams of running from people trying to kill me, probably brought on by mum being horribly manipulative. She kicked up such a stink last year when I went away for Xmas, but when I said I was probably going to Germany this year for Xmas she tried to dream up ways that Nanna would pay for it. You see, she really only wants me to get married and have kids, and a couple of sentences before (when she was hassling me about getting engaged) I mentioned that I hadn't even met Bernie's family yet. I was completely floored when she seemed happy that I would miss Xmas again - I had thought it would be a war when I mustered the courage to say I wouldn't be there.

The last nightmare was having to re-mark all of the cse1303 end of semester papers because the tutors marked opposite to the marking guide. I am planning to mark the two tests by myself, mainly as my workload should be less than full time without it. I don't think I could do that for the final exam.

I need a decent night's sleep!

Dairy Free Lemon Pudding

This recipe is adapted from my favourite lemon self-saucing pudding that uses milk and real butter (so you can substitute these with the same quantities if you want dairy). It works just as well with soy milk, and even better when served with vanilla Fruccio (soy ice-cream). I jump ahead of myself though.

Blend 1 Tbsp non-dairy butter (Nuttelex) with 3/4 c sugar. Add 1/2 c sifted self-raising flour, finely grated rind of one lemon and the juice of 2 lemons (make it real juice, please!) Seperate 2 eggs, and add 2 beaten egg yolks and 1 c soy milk to the mixture. Stiffly beat egg whites and fold carefully into the mixture. Pour into a lightly greased casserole and bake in a moderate oven (180°C or 350°F) for 30-40 minutes.

Eat ;>

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Anti-smuggler cat

A fish sniffing cat is helping to catch smugglers illegally returning with their catch from the Russian Caspian sea.

It's about time cats started taking the jobs normally reserved for dogs! Cats Rule :>

The big throwout

For the past few days (weeks?) I have had the urge to throw a lot of things out. Which I have done, or put aside to sell on ebay, or give away as presents. I've thrown out old cards, holey clothes, miscellaneous paperwork and receipts that I really don't need to keep, my old diary from early high school (without even reading through it - I know what it says, damn my extremely good long term memory), dead ink cartridges and pens, out of date food, candelabras and storage jars. You name it, I've got rid of it.

I have done my tax already (the earliest I have ever submitted it) and was majorly depressed at the expected return. I still have to pay HECS and medicare levy even though I earnt a tiny amount, and a huge amount of that went on medical expenses! Bah! The tax return did make me do one thing, fix my printer, (the heads on two black cartridges were dead, and the colour cartridge needed the black ink well refilled). But only after swearing for about an hour at the spare printer that for some reason would not eat the paper fed to it. I still haven't figured it out and re-boxed it in disgust.

I attacked a tree (really only half a tree) and have cut it up, making the dead green pile in the backyard definitely a full trailer load for the tip. It's interesting to see how independent I need to be when it comes to doing things that I should be able to do (without being in pain).

Now that the house is clean, the washing is done, the throwing out completed, there is only the garden left to prepare and the cross stitch to finish, to procrastinate. Unfortunately the garden is out in the sunny cold world (both adjectives that don't interact well with me).

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Charlies Angels 2

I enjoyed this movie immensely as the writers have stopped taking anything seriously. I think it made it funnier having seen the 'special' aired on the MTV awards. The story was pretty standard, the acting and characterisations (especially by Cameron Diaz) were brilliant, and the fight scenes (and associated special effects) were incredible. This is the first movie I had seen in a long time that had the whole cinema in laughter several times! This is definitely one to collect. (And I want Demi's hair!)

Insomnia and things....

I still haven't managed to push my body clock around to daylight hours, despite having to get up at 8:30 on Saturday to get my new insteps (which feel decidedly weird, and require new Docs to be purchased *ouch*). This is a Bad Thing (tm) as I have got 9am lectures twice a week starting in second semester which I really need to be awake for.

I have started a fortnightly course of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. The acupuncture was not nearly as bad as I had expected, and apparently I'm a perfect fit for a certain type of herbal preparation for 'cold and phlegmy' people, 12 liquorice coated little round tablets, 3 times a day. Thank goodness I can take them all at once! I was told to expect some changes in a couple of days, but so far, nothing at all.

I got a blinding headache after seeing Charlie's Angels 2, but that's standard after a movie these days, even with the new glasses (must be the flashing and the loudness). Now I need to find a decent way to trek all the way to Upwey each fortnight that doesn't send me insane (well, more so) from boredom.

I still haven't found any motivation to do honours stuff, and it's going past the desperate stage. If anyone has any tips, please let me know. At the moment I just wish I could stop studying and stop working for a while, to concentrate on health. But as my health costs so damned much, a reduction in work (and related stress) is certainly not an option.

Need to do something about my fish tank. Debbie kindly contributed an infestation of furry algae with her gift of a heater, which is impossible to get rid of and obviously unpalatable to the bristle cat. The fish are dying one by one, and I hope I don't lose any of the important ones.

Get Well Flowers

Edwina organised a bunch of flowers from the whole of CSSE, to be sent to me when I had heard the bad news about my adenomyosis, to wish me well and to cheer me up. I have finally got around to putting a picture up. Thanks Edwina and all of CSSE! It was a complete surprise and certainly did cheer me up. This is the first time I have ever received a delivery of flowers, and twas only the second bunch of get well flowers that I was given for my operation and recovery. I don't think Edwina guessed, but my favourite colour is purple, and I adore bulbs (yellow liliums in this case). The liliums lasted about two weeks, the orange gerberas and white freesias died in a couple of days though. They were gorgeous, thanks again CSSE.

Saturday, July 5, 2003

Moving site

I will be moving the non-Monash related sections to elsewhere, as Monash is cracking down on what their computers/services are being used for. So that means the personal and health sections and this blog will be moving, so all bookmarks will be broken. Not sure when it will happen, but probably soon. I'm sorry that this will inconvenience people, but I don't want to lose my job or put my advancement in jeopardy (as has happened to other Monash employees fairly recently).

Incan Binary

Apparently the Incans invented binary by tying knots on strings. Actually there are quite a few very amusing and witty (geeky and sad) jokes made on the slashdot thread.

Friday, July 4, 2003

Australian School bans HP

Witchcraft and evil are used synonymously by Bert Langerak, principal of the conservative Maranatha Christian College in Doveton and Endeavour Hills, who has banned Harry Potter from the school. He is concerned that many children have tried spells and are more accepting of witchcraft and the occult as a result of reading Rowling's books. Of course, we can't have a more accepting society, what on earth are we thinking!! But then, women are still being burned as witches. The BBC has better article about the banning, burning and shredding of Harry Potter books the world over.

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

One Giant Leap

One Giant Leap (+1 Bonus Track)

This CD is excellent, a brilliant meld of styles of music from all over the world. Very easy to listen to, wonderfully balanced mixes and speeds. I only wish the CD had the music videos to go with it, as they were brilliant (available on the 1 Giant Leap DVD). I first saw this production when it was aired on the Discovery Channel several months back, and loved the concept and music straight away.