Monday, December 27, 2004

Empathy versus systemising

The tests are here. Systemising quotient: 37/80 - Average (normal for women: 24 men: 30) Empathy quotient: 72/80 - Very High (normal for women: 47 men: 42) Autism Spectrum quotient: 11/50: average (normal for women: 15 men: 17) Reading eyes: 35/36 (I'd guess this was quite high as typical scores are between 22 and 30) From these, I am probably considered fairly empathic (and according to the notes on the book, that would most likely pin me as female) ;>

Merry Xmas and all that

The cats were kept happy, playing with the wrapping paper and their new balls. They lost one of the balls after only playing with it for about an hour. I finally found it again today.

I received fantastic presents - a lovely LCD monitor (everything is so crisp and properly colourful, and I can sit facing straight at my desk finally!).

And of course, Return of the King SE, which was promptly watched with glee. I was shocked at how much I didn't remember (we saw it in Germany on Boxing Day last year, when I was in incredible amounts of pain with no pain-killers available). Still, wow....

Now I'm wondering how long it will be before the rights to The Hobbit are released to PJ, as he is the only one that is able to do it justice.

Am re-reading some of my old favourites, The Magician and The Empire Trilogy, and generally taking it easy. Am sleeping around 13 hours a day, and trying to fight off a nasty ear/nose/throat virus that is lingering.

I'm left alone to try to manage the kitten-cats by myself (they are quite a handful!). Gingy has taken to attacking walls (possibly shadows?), and Smokey knows exactly what to do to annoy me (and repeatedly does it).

 I desperately need to cat-proof my study, but need to remove the now unused huge monitors.

 I think I'll be getting a monitor switching box so I can enjoy my games on this yummy LCD. There is one pixel that is always on that I have noticed, but it's off to the side so it's not too distracting.

Anyhow... have to stop the cats ruining my study and chewing the cords....

Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Song for a Fifth Child...

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth, empty the dustpan, poison the moth, hang out the washing and butter the bread, sew on a button, and make up a bed.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking? She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue (lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due (pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).

The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew and out in the yard there's a hullabaloo but I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue? (lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

 The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow, for children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.

So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep. I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

In Season (December)

This is so I can keep track of what is currently in season. Fruit: bananas, cherries, melons, oranges, berries, stone fruits, mangos, grapes, pineapple Vegetables: asparagus, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, celery, cucumber, lettuce, mushrooms, rhubarb, spring onions, zucchini, radishes, corn, tomatoes Flowers: agapanthus, ageratum, alstroemeria, asters, chrysanthemum, cornflower, crab apple, dahlias, daisies, delphinium, feverfew (Matricaria), gardenia, gerbera, gypsophila, hydrangea, jasmine, larkspur, lavender, lisianthus, November Lilies, paeonies, roses, snapdragons, statice, sunflower, yarrow, Zantedeschia (Calla Lilies), zinnia

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Out of it...

Been feeling extremely out of it for a bit.

Birthday was relaxed and spent watching kittens run into any hidey hole they could find, or invent.

However, the three cards with vouchers/cheques from my family stressed me out majorly as I had requested no contact.

The hives flared the next day, and continued to get progressively worse throughout the week, enough so that my face and lips swelled and I could hardly see out of my left eye (made worse by a cystic pimple on the outside edge :-\).

This was the worse flare I have had in the entire three months of hives suffering. On Thursday of last week, I stopped procrastinating and wrote a letter to each of them and returned the cheques/vouchers, again requesting no contact for the time being.

Walking home from the shops was painful due to the very bad swelling - people were looking at me quite strangely as my hands were also all swollen and blotchy. Bought some plants on the way home, and took it slowly. However, I bent down when I got home and felt many things in my calves 'burst', similar to how blisters burst. Most of the hives swellings turned immediately blood red (under the skin), and rather freaked me out.

I didn't go to the end of year work function as I felt shocking, but instead took a cool bath with corn flour, baking soda, soothing herbs and oils, and rested. Hives started to go down the next day, leaving the terrible blood-red marks. A few days later, hives seem to be back to pre-birthday levels (quite good!) and the marks have faded - I think they were a bruise or something, probably caused by the skin not being able to stretch safely over such drastic swelling.

 This has certainly showed me that the hives are stress related - specifically, familial stress.

Thursday, December 2, 2004


Kitten photos, courtesy of a neat camera and better skills than I currently have. My camera is far too slow and grainy to capture their hyperactivity!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Therapeutic oil and spray for hives (chronic urticaria)

Please don't copy these recipes without attributing me as the author. I am not a qualified aromatherapist, these recipes are based on what has worked for me and the scents that I prefer.

I've managed to come up with an oil formulation that provides a little relief for my hives and a lovely scent to help my mood, and just made a bottle sized batch after testing it for a few weeks. If I had jojoba oil, I'd be using that instead of half of the wheatgerm oil quantity. It doesn't clear up any of the welts, but makes them less itchy and a little less angry. I've also taken to using a little of this as a moisturising face oil once every couple of days, before using the Kosmea sunscreen (I haven't found a moisturiser with SPF30+ but not containing parabens yet - however the new Kosmea range is due out any time now).

Soothing oil

40ml grapeseed oil (base + preserving properties)

40 ml almond oil (base)

30 ml rosehip oil (base + moisturising properties - especially good for dry skin)

30 ml wheatgerm oil (base)

10 ml calendula oil (skin inflammation + healing of abrasions)

8 ml 3% chammomile in jojoba (the best oil for skin inflammation, itchiness + emotional aspects)

20 drops 3% rose in jojoba (emotional aspects + smells gorgeous)

10 drops lavender (antiseptic poperties + emotional aspects)

5 drops bergamot (for aggravated skin)

5 drops jasmine (emotional aspects + smells gorgeous)

5 drops neroli (emotional aspects)

3 drops patchouli (skin aggravation, to ground the top notes)

3 drops juniper (cleansing toxins)

When welts are screaming out to be itched, a cooling spray can help for a short time. It needs to be shaken each time, kept in a very fine mist sprayer and can be kept in the fridge for extra cooling.

Cooling spray

75ml distilled water 25ml liquid aloe (moisturising, cooling)

10 drops 3% chammomile in jojoba (anti-inflammatory)

2 drops 3% rose in jojoba (emotional aspects)

2 drops lavender (antiseptic)

I've also found that my daily toner spray helps the angry welts. I use this twice daily to help control my usual upset, skin that is usually both too oily and peeling (with many acne pimples, cysts and blackheads). It's very cooling after being in the sun too.

Toner spray

80ml witchhazel (toning)

10 ml rosewater (toning)

5 ml liquid aloe (moisturising)

4 drops 3% chammomile in jojoba (anti-inflammatory)

4 drops lavender (antiseptic)

4 drops tea trea (antiseptic)

2 drops geranium (skin oil balancing)


I just read the recommendations of the Faculty Review, and am left wondering what will happen to the value of my degree from next year on. The main points were:

  • There will be one faculty ('no schools')
  • There will be four courses, Soft Eng, CS, Info Sys and Info Tech Sys.
  • Students may be required to attend more than one campus (or complete subjects without lecture/class contact) to complete their core subjects (let alone electives)
  • Staff may be required to teach at any campus
  • Staff are 'encouraged' participate at research at any campus
  • FIT is in charge of all funds (no 'schools')
  • There will be one admin/organisational unit at each campus (no 'schools')
  • There will be three sub-deans (education, research, development) at the FIT level (getting rid of those currently at school level as there will be no 'schools') who will be responsible for the dean when absent
  • Teaching performance will be evaluated in part in terms of how well that person contributes to the resources used to support a unit
    (heh - this one will be interesting, at least, with regards to some of the more notorious lecturers/subjects)
  • Research will be owned at the faculty level (no 'schools')
  • Courses and subjects will be owned at the faculty level (no 'schools')

There are currently seven different schools, offering eleven different bachelor degrees with further specialisations and double degree combinations available (Bus Sys, Comp Sci, Dig Sys, Soft Eng, Info Sys, Multimedia Sys, Internet Sys and Commerce, Network Computing, Info Tech, and Computing are the different individual degrees). I can see future IT degrees becoming a homogenised mass of sterile 'how to use MS products' and pseudo programming in high level and GUI driven languages. This will completely remove the nitty-gritty bottom level programming skills that the embedded market so desperately needs that CS and Dig Sys somewhat provided (and the students hated)! It will also be unlikely that the courses foster the high-level maths and programming skills needed in the burgeoning bio-informatics market, or the existing medical-systems market.

I hope some other institutions will still provide the more interesting courses, as Monash seems intent on becoming the boring, standard 'white long grain rice' version of IT. That rice does not make a good risotto, sushi, paella, rice pudding, or anything interesting or new.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


I want the the chicken and dark grey sheep ;> And these socks!


Hives aren't responding to anything now... The antihistamines have been masking bad congestion in my chest, now apparent as I haven't taken any for a day and a half. I'm going to see if I can stay off them for a bit, and I'm toying with the idea of weaning myself off the anti-depressants. It's not that I don't need them, but the possibility of them depressing my immune system so the hives can flourish is fairly high. One of their side-effects is hives, and I have a history of reacting to medication due to building up an allergy over time.

I need to find a decent doctor outside of my university, that preferably bulk bills, as I will no longer be a student or staff member, as of the end of December. Another scary thought - it will be quite difficult for me to continue with my Psych there without arranging payments. I've been seeing her for the last 8-9 years, and she has been the best possible person to talk to - she mirrors me and reacts/comments as a friend, which is completely against psych training - but is exactly what I respond best to. 'Twill be ok once I start tutoring again in March. After I 'get a real job', who knows....

Anyhow... any suggestions of good doctors, preferably with experience of endo/adeno/chronically ill patients are extremely welcome. Friday afternoon tea at CSSE is for thanking and farewell'ing the ALs (and being birthday biccies for me). That will feel completely weird, as will cleaning out my office and returning Aquila (laptop). I wonder if the head will bother to turn up, as most of the lecturers (not to mention the ALs) are livid and helpless to change this decision. I doubt I would have continued anyway, unless it was just as a 'marker' and 'admin only' person, as my health has been so badly battered by the overtime and other demands this semester. It will be extremely weird tutoring a subject that I lectured for years, but I'm kinda looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I am Borg

A friend made a rather appropriate comment yesterday, noting that my body reacts to medication as if it is Borg. I'm up to my third anti-histamine brand in trying to deal with the ongoing hives. Telfast worked well for about 1 month, Phenergan for about 1 week (although the drowsiness disappeared after a couple of days), Zyrtec for 1 day (or rather 1 night)... I'm definately not liking the way my immune system is adapting so quickly to medication modulation... :-\ Today I'm ridiculously itchy, and the warmer weather is making things much worse. Must not scratch!! Argh!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Kitty goodness

Such a cute cartoon, and so true... Still waiting for the RSPCA to have some kittens... soon now...

Saturday, November 6, 2004

So many programming errors....

And the problems with the various electronic voting systems employed in the recent American election start rolling in. Many companies have had a hand in developing various parts of the systems, and they are all busy blaming someone else (if they are contactable at all, that is). These kind of programming errors should be paraded before undergraduates as reasons why they should test, and test, and do even more testing, before the software/hardware is put to use. It's ridiculous that such errors are still in systems that are just as important as medical or scientific systems. I mean, those systems are responsible for accurately logging votes on who will run one of the most influential countries on this planet.

Phenergan sensitivity

I feel like I'm observing from a distance. Having slept about 38 hours in the last 48 with vivid dreams is somewhat unusual for me (well not the vivid dream part). I can't tell what's part of my dreams and what's real. Nothing I have done has really helped ground me yet either. This, I think, is due to the dose of phenergan I took two nights ago (I took the larger of the recommended dosages as my hives were playing up really badly). It completely knocked me out for about 14 hours. I woke up, and went back to sleep about 5 hours later (after taking the smallest dose this time to stop any futher flares). I slept... and slept... and couldn't drag myself awake, even if my life depended on it.

Loud music, loads of coffee/tea/sugar/carbs, strong EO/incense, a hot shower, or jumping up and down hasn't helped. The loud music is stopping me from drifting back to sleep at the keyboard at least. I do have a sinus/throat/ear/chest infection which may also be contributing.

Not to mention the huge regressive kick I got with the LJ comment last night (resulting in me wanting to curl up in a corner and whimper), and the nightmares that still feel so real. The phenergan may also be reacting with the Effexor to contribute more unreal-ness, or I may just be finally crashing... I wonder how this is affecting my marking....

Friday, November 5, 2004

Spam comment

A couple of my recent LJ posts had been commented on by a person using an Australian Optus account. This person disguised a pornographic comment by making it look relevent to companion planting for lemon trees. I naively clicked on the link and was horrified. It immediately slammed me back into the abuse memories from childhood. I have reported this person to Optus, so I hope they can find who it was and do something about it. I can't take the comment down until Optus has contacted me, so don't expect any more posts until then. I've turned comments to friends only for the time being. I do not have the strength to deal with this at the moment, I'm still shaking.

Thursday, November 4, 2004


I fell asleep, I was just going to lie in bed for a little while to try to stop my chest/back from cramping (it was what was making me feel nauseous). When I woke up, it had stopped cramping, but I was severely hurting all over, and running a high fever. The hives had made a concerted effort to turn my body into a single welt. I probably should go to hospital, but the cost, time and the fact that they would just give me a very strong anti-histamine is stopping me. The tops of my legs are one big welt, they have made it into my hair, on my neck, covering my chest and arms, on my sides and belly, and they have even managed to build a colony on my face (thank goodness it's not too bad there - just lumpy and red on my cheeks, not overly welty). Doctors tomorrow.

It may be because I have been eating a lot of dairy recently - but I really have no idea what is causing such a bad reaction. It's only been just under 24 hours since the last tablet, and it's never been this bad. It's horrifically itchy, and painful in a way similar to shingles. My glands are quite sore too (throat, neck and arms), and it's quite difficult to breathe (panic, costo or allergy...). I'm scared.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004


1.5 days after my last dose of Effexor and I'm starting to experience the skips/jolts very badly. Reminded me to go and take it (exhaustion makes me extremely forgetful). Stomach is also rebelling, so am sipping chammomile, spearmint and peppermint tea. Come to think of it, my whole body is rebelling at the moment - it needs more sleep and less junky food (eaten only to get me through the marking and the last couple of weeks of get-rid-of-family).

It was fresh outside today, the ground was damp and weeding in some of the overgrown pots was a lot easier. Need to find some companion plants for my lemon tree, and feed it. I rescued my huge hanging basket of ferns and popped some ivy cuttings in. It really needs repotting in a much larger basket. However, I don't have any potting mix, let alone a larger wire basket/lining. Those are the next 'major-ish' garden purchases. The plethora of cuttings seems to be doing ok after the initial die-off from the end of winter. The aphids appear to have been eaten finally, which means the scented geraniums are much happier. Hopefully they'll catch up to the other pelargoniums which are growing happily. I need another couple of wheeled pot stands to put the lilly/ivy and japanese maple on, but that can wait a while. I also need to weed the back fence, trampoline area and clean up the front yard. Obviously, not till I've finished the marking and am feeling a little better...

To catch the fish...

Finished the cheater checking on both assignments now... finally. It took forever.

8.5 hours on assignment 3 (using Damocles, an online comparison program to catch cheating). I have to look at each submission and ignore anything that was highlighted because people cut and pasted from the assignment specification. 3 hours on assignment 4 (without chasing up the original code and doing a by-hand comparison - Jon's job, thank goodness). Strangely enough, the same names came up on both of them, many of those names I had caught before in previous subjects/pracs/assignments.

So... how do I catch these 'cheaters'?

Written work

Kinda easy with Damocles == it analyses runs of matching words (typically about 8 words in a row) between two submissions, and then highlights the other words in that paragraph/page that match. When you get a piece of work that has loads of one colour, then typically it means one student has copied from another. You can select the section to get a side by side (well top/bottom) comparison of the matching section. Then I eyeball it to see just how much it matches. Non-native english speakers are easier to catch as they often don't find and fix each other's spelling or grammar mistakes.


Also kinda easy, now that we use MOSS (provided by Berkeley). MOSS produces web pages of two programming submissions, analysed for semantic similarity. It ignores variable names (the most common form of covering up cheating is changing variable names), and produces coloured sections similar to Damocles, with a side by side comparison of the whole of the two submissions. It also gives a 'percentage' match, which at the moment (along with the colouring) is completely wrong. Their recent version upgrade did not improve things.

Anyhow... I look at the higher matches (one in assignment 4 had a 81%-91% match!), and read through the code, looking for implementations of difficult concepts. These types of cheater checkers don't work all that well when there is a well defined and common way of implementing something, i.e. being given a skeleton program or if the solution is a one line function, as there will be a high correspondance).

Once again, it's very easy to pick the non-native English speaking cheaters, as they have strange variable names in common, spelling and grammar errors in the comments, or identical comments. The other way of noticing cheating is to look at what lines are commented out, and the actual layout of the code (indenting, blank lines, the format used for placing braces or spaces between components of an expression). It's much easier and faster to detect cheating in code, as opposed to written work.

Why am I talking about this? Well, my dreams last night were odd. I was trying to explain to a student who I had caught cheating, exactly why it was obvious they cheated. I was pointing out the matches using the techniques above. The student was impressed and did admit to it. I also tried to explain why cheating was bad (it will disadvantage them later), but I don't think that was understood. For some reason, this was happening in my primary school, in a 3rd/4th grade classroom where it was horribly noisy (and being taught by my grade 6 teacher - John F. Kennedy), because I no longer had an office or computer in CSSE..... Talk about an amalgamation of my life....

Monday, November 1, 2004


It looks like I may be able to get sickness benefit for the two months I'm taking off work to recuperate. I have an appointment on Wednesday to find out if it is possible. I can certainly get medical documentation stating I need to completely rest to recover before working again. Am exhausted, and there is a marathon marking session ahead of me.... Need to be finished this marking in 3 days at the most...

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

I cant breathe...

My whole back has cramped completely. Enough that I can't breathe much at all, and sitting/standing (anything other than lying on my back on a flat heatpack) is causing pain enough that I'm losing my vision during the spikes. It's encouraging the chest cartilage to flare with cramps as well (both are symptomatic of costochondritis). Argh....

Monday, October 25, 2004

Professor Gollum!

(I just noted the soundtrack - how appropriate) Robyn sent a link to this today, and boy did it give me the giggles - just what I needed while marking! (And about to start the grind of exam marking tomorrow!)


    Tricksy studentses. Hates them, precious, yesss, we hates them. Studentses, grubbing for gradeses, grubbing and ssscraping and ssneaking, and their heads sso empty-- ssssso empty, gollum, gollum. No brains. No scrumptiously crunchable brainses, no precious, jusst air and dussst. Dussst!

    Hates them. Ssstupid sstudentses, don't even read the textbook, no preciouss. They writes, and writes, and sscrawls and scribbles-- our eyes, precious, we must ruin our poor eyeses on their scratchings-- but they don't think, do they, precious? They never thinksss. Gollum. No, no thinking for them, sstupid studentses. Too good for thinking, gollum But we'll show them, preciouss, yess.

    Fail them. Fail them, precious. We can bleed bright red ink all over their nassssty homeworks, yesss, precious. We can fail the studentses. Make them cry. Make them weep and wail and sssob. Yesss.

    Ssstudentss. Filthy, sstinking, ssstupid studentsss. We hatess them, we hates them forever!

    Yess, precious. Gollum, gollum.

The original Post has received so many comments from stressed teachers, it is very reassuring that there are so many of us out there!

Friday, October 22, 2004


A large number of secondary (and probably tertiary) students are suffering from CFS. Apparently this number is rising each year (perhaps due to the increase in students?), and the secondary education board (VCAA) has cut back on promised of special provisions for sufferers.

I don't think I've read any hypothesis that has questioned the education system or the state of society in general as possible reasons for CFS. They typically blame 'competitive entry scores' and pressure from family. I think the major causes are inadequate preparation for final years throughout the education system and general health being degraded by multiple causes (stress about society, fear, mass medication through water supply, nutritional needs not being met - again due to a large number of reasons, pollution rising, increased allergies, family problems, advertising of standards to difficult to conform to, etc).

Entry scores into many degrees at uni have been dropping, year after year, to try to keep the student numbers up (and it's not working in computer science at Monash - from over 300 last year to 170 in this year's first year level).

I need to get back to marking... I have no motivation...

Stupid Unions

Monash staff in conjunction with the NTEU are going to block final results being released this year, yet again due to pay disputes. I'm so sick of unions screwing up education (more than it is already).

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

New spot for a hive

This time one came up just under my eye on my cheekbone. This is quite a disturbing development, indicating (clearly) they are getting worse (not that I couldn't already tell by the anti-histamines keeping them away for less and less, and the welts getting worse during a flare). I've nearly got two months of leave saved up (on a part time wage). If I skimp over summer I'll be able to take Dec (paid), Jan and Feb (non-paid) off to look after me, try to recover a little. Then I can tutor next year in first semester, save up a bunch (still skimping) and hopefully get a 'real job' (part time) mid-year. It's a better time to be looking for a job anyway (compared to Xmas). From a health point of view, this makes a lot of sense, and is probably the best option I could choose. From a money point of view - ouch.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Sunday, October 17, 2004


Someone infected me with a lovely cold. A bog standard, quick to set in, very wet sounding cold, my first simple cold for this year. *grumble*

 Brian and Nadeen's wedding yesterday had an unusual number of young'uns present, seems like most people around my age are breeding. Shalana was extremely well behaved, getting a seat all to herself (at 7 weeks!), and giving cuddles all round. Unfortunately I think she detected when I got dizzy and started to grizzle, but Kate managed to settle her to sleep, while I headed off to crash for a bit.

The massage I received on Friday was lovely, very gentle with half being reflexology. It certainly got things moving - started break-through bleeding through two forms of continuous blocking medications yesterday (thus the onset of dizziness and cramping), coughing and spluttering away today, however, at least

I've been able to move my neck a little more than usual.

Now, I need to get this place a little cleaned, get dinner, put the washing away and somehow stop coughing!

Friday, October 8, 2004

Election guff....

Saw this on 's LJ, it's a party preference quiz. I'm not sure I'm as polarised as these results suggest though! One Nation: 38% National Party: 15% Liberal Party: 31% Labor Party: 56% Democrats: 88% Greens: 90%

Wednesday, October 6, 2004


From our recent trip to Phillip Island for a weekend. You can even see the current colour(s) of my hair - it's way overdue for re-dying. And for those of you who are used to me being dressed all in black, be warned - I'm wearing my nice warm, fuzzy, _white_ jacket. Oh... and we are allowed to have 2 cats! *bounce*

A nasty virus!

There were actually late assignments to mark, so I hadn't finished with marking. Shortly into the second one I felt like crap and went to bed.

 This morning I felt rotten, later developments indicate a nasty fluey virus. Joints and muscle edges hurt, twinged and cramped continuously, especially my feet and hands. I couldn't type, could hardly walk (thank goodness my house has a long corridor - support either side is fantastic in such a situation), couldn't see straight (triples of everything - yay!), had a very heavy solid headache, and couldn't move my neck.

I woke up, emailed the necessary people, and went back to sleep feeling bad about missing consultation, knowing there would be a bunch of students there :-\

The phone rang 10 times throughout the day, three of those simply hung up (I screen calls). One was Debbie, a little panicked because she hadn't read her email and didn't know that I was too ill to come in - there was a pile of students at my office door and it was 2:30 (consultation is normally at 2-5).

So, that was my first up and about session. After talking with Debbie, I noticed my chest was burbling at me... mmm... gotta love that drownded bronchial sound and feeling. This gave me a better idea what was happening.

Sometime during the phone rings I remembered I'd missed my anti-depressant which was causing loads of little jumps and ticks, my dreams were shifting like crazy! So took various tablets, vitamins, a couple of panadol, and a shot of bronchitis cough mixture, wrapped up various joints in compression bandages, and tried to read/doze.

The surrealness of my dreams spread into real life, my mother rang and offered me her car. I don't drive, and have no intention of learning until my health is a little more stable, and certainly don't have the finances to afford to run a car!

Once the pain killers and compression gear had started to help, I discovered I was getting hungry, so woke up, got food and settled down to emails, only to discover about 10 students asking for their assignments to be re-marked. I'm not going to look at these till Friday.

I've rescheduled consultation to Thursday, hoping I'll be ok by then - if not, I may need to get a tutor to fill in for me. My hands have given up again, so I'm crashing now.

Whatever you do, please avoid getting this virus - it's nasty!

Monday, October 4, 2004


Mirrormask, the darker 'Labyrinth', a combination of Neil Gaiman and the Henson muppets. Apparently there is a teaser trailer here, but it requires flash, and I can't be bothered to find a browser that works.

Marking done...

I just had to remark one batch of assignments, thanks to my computer being a royal pain in the **** and chewing up various files, including a whole config directory (which subsequently stops my computer from shutting down cleanly, and thus requires a stupid file system check when starting). I have a niggling feeling it's something to do with using an audio mixer - that's the only common program between the last time this happened and this time. Anyhow... marking done.. weight off shoulders... now to sweep, dust and wash the floors, finally.

Princess Mononoke

Fantastic anime movie with brilliant ambience. The storyline is a little murky, but much clearer in hindsight. The animation, scenery and sound all contributed wonderfully to the story. Having learnt quite a bit about various pantheons of spirits/gods, the similarity to the Irish legends struck me as very strange, but quietly amusing. Definately a fantastic 'must-see' movie, but certainly not a bouncy, happy one. It's taken me about 6 years to get around to seeing it, and I'm glad I waited. It's much more interesting with the knowledge I have gained over that time.

Sunday, October 3, 2004

Yay - music!!

Finally got my CD collection ripped. It's taken about 2 solid weeks, but now I can listen to my collection. I need to set up a few playlists... XMMS is being silly and loading in the directories (and the files) in alphabetical order, not album order.

Darned Hives!

I should have an updateable field: "Today's new hive flare position". This time, it's my elbows, and they are very easy to scratch. Thank goodness I have cut my fingernails, or I would not have any skin left by now. The anti-histamines are keeping the rash at bay for less than 24 hours now, down from their usual 1.5 days. Both the pharmacist and doctor can do nothing else other than anti-histamines, they have no idea what is causing it (both think it's stress related... well duh!) The hives are starting to leave red blotches even after retreating - I have red 'scar' dots on my hands, legs, knees and ankles. Probably after today, I can add elbows to that list. Calamine, oat baths, regular showers and washing of clothes/sheets is no longer making a difference.

I think I can put it down to stress increasing, immunofunction decreasing: bumps on fingers are worse, skin is shocking, costo & sciatic have flared, neck is hardly moveable, constant headache, exhaustion, confusion, lack of balance, sinusitis, difficulty focusing, inability to concentrate, nightmares, insomnia, difficulty breathing, cystic acne, regular cramps, constant muscle flutterings, adeno & IBS flare, overall pain level increasing drastically, all getting worse & worse. I just want to sleep for a month.

Saturday, October 2, 2004


A slashdotted review of kittens:


An Anime children's film, Totoro is extremely cute, and had me laughing quite a lot, suprising considering how down I had been at the time of viewing. This film is rated C (or rather G in the Australian system) and doesn't have that much of a plot. The differences between how westerners view 'spirits' or 'ghosts', and how the film portrayed Japanese reverence and curiosity towards their spirits was quite striking. The characters are realistic (apart from the spirits, which lent a strong fantasy element), and the animation and scenery were beautifully done. The subtitles are quite hilarious at times, trying hard to be accessible to children who may not understand the meaning of various scenic pans and facial expressions. Fantastic movie! (I want the kitty!)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Philip Island on the weekend was wonderfully relaxing, if only I hadn't been so tired! The nightly spa's did wonders to my shoulders and feet, the walking wasn't too strenuous although it showed how unfit I have become. Furry animal therapy was wonderful, but made me long more for my own kitties (we are waiting to hear back from the landlord, yea or nay). One of the koalas was really showing off, sitting on the boardwalk banister and eating from placed food. I hope it didn't get patted. 

The 'Ultimate Penguin Experience' is also highly recommended. Instead of being in a concreted area with 1400 other people including kids, prams and tourist groups, we were meant to be in a small group (15) with no children. As it happened, it was just the two of us in the group.

The ranger took us to a separate beach on the other side of the island where we watched the sun set peacefully over the bay. Luckily, the weather was fantastic with quite a bit of light provided by the almost full moon. Equipped with night binoculars, camping mats, torches and all weather gear (just in case), we watched many small and large groups of penguins waddle up from the waters edge.

After about 40 minutes, we walked back along the beach, often keeping pace with penguins at the grass edge, then up some really steep stairs and back to the penguin center. Two couples of penguins were checking out the breeding boxes provided by the staff, and one of the males decided to do his mating dance, hopping and bopping around the female. It was a much more relaxing, natural and thrilling experience - the best way to see the penguins.

Churchill Island was also neat, mainly because of the kitchen gardens in the historic site. By this stage I was really quite tired and when it started raining heavily, that was a good enough reason not to go on a long walk around the island. Instead we went for a slow to arrive but very scrumptious lunch at the visitor centre.

Hive welts kept coming and going, requiring anti-histamines every 1.5 days. It's been about four weeks now with no respite apart from what's provided by the medication.

I've had to deal with far too much marking (and tutors who said they would, then couldn't, mark) and am getting stressed over how to go about reducing contact with my family. It's become ludicrous now, with bribery in addition to blackmail. I'm too sick and exhausted to deal with them any longer.

Aztex Cosmpolitan Restaurant

Aztex Cosmpolitan Restaurant 10 Thompson Ave, Cowes, Philip Island 9592 3102 Entrees ~ 10, Meals ~ 18

The entrees were superb, especially the satay sauce on the chicken & beef satay sticks. The meals (and entrees) were quite well sized, however, after the deliciousness of the first dish, the main courses were quite a let down.

The Moroccan chicken was fairly non-spiced, the vegetable couscous it was served with wasn't all that tasty, and they forgot the dressing on the salad. The pizza wasn't all that thrilling either.

So after a fabulous beginning, it was quite disappointing that the main dishes were average.

Churchill Island Visitor's Cafe

This place has a captive audience, being the only food place on the island.

We had just ordered after they had catered to a bus load, so the waiting time was quite long. However, the mains dishes that were delivered were incredible! Very large sizes and delicious, for not too much money. What more can we ask for?!

The zucchini slice was incredibly succulent, served with a good quality fresh mixed salad (fresh from the kitchen garden on the island) and wedges with sweet chilli sauce and sour cream in a huge bowl. Yumm!

(If anyone tries their vanilla slices, please tell me - they looked like they were the scrummiest vanilla slices ever made, but I couldn't have any due to them being mostly dairy!)

Saturday, September 18, 2004

More gah....

How do you get rid of hives? I've had them for nearly two weeks now. Whenever they seem to settle down for a day and I think they are finally leaving, they flare up worse than ever! I've got rid of all dietary changes, am not using soap, using washing liquid that I haven't reacted to at all in the past, and changing clothes daily and sheets every few days. Calamine doesn't help at all - in fact I feel like it makes it worse. Jeans are the ultimate flare trigger, possibly as they are tightish. I'm sick of being covered in huge red/white insanely itchy welts. On the up side, my 5 day migraine finally wore itself out (I took a Mersyndol - the first pain killer in months). My neck is incredibly sore now.

Monday, September 13, 2004


One more bunch of marking to go... I think I'll sleep for a bit though, my neck/back is not going to forgive me for a while.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Just what I needed

Hives... the really welty, itchy kind that covers the whole body. If they are still as bad tomorrow, back to the doctors I go, even though they really can't be treated. They started at my hips, spread downwared to cover my legs to my ankles, and then went up from the hips. It has just reached my hands and top of my neck, and I hope it stops there. Add that to the excruciatingly painful ulcer I have just been diagnosed with (I thought it might have been a form of cystitis... but no - it had to be radically different and difficult to treat), and I can't concentrate for more than 30 seconds! I'm meant to be marking... For some reason my left eye looks like it has taken a whack - the cheekbone just under the eye is puffy and purple - no idea what it causing this! The doc did say that it is not unexpected that my health is crashing now that I'm not studying, and that I should not expect to see any improvement until it has finished crashing. Yay.

Saturday, September 4, 2004

Alive, but barely disappeared for a little while due to a policy misunderstanding between the domain registrar and the re-seller/host. At least that's worked out for another year.

Then my computer decided to have several hard to fix fits of possession. Eventually figured out that it was a dodgy implementation of APM (the interaction of the CPU and motherboard was not healthy).

This was after replacing the hard disk after trying to figure out why it kept throwing errors in reiser - an install of ext3 didn't fix the errors. That problem was due to the motherboard corrupting the interrupt table. At least I have a nice large drive now, which I'm proceeding to fill rapidly. I should probably think about replacing this nasty motherboard.

There went several weeks, diagnosing and dealing... More weeks have been lost to marking and trying to deal with the overwhelming need of the second years for consultation for assignments. Now, I just have to deal with the worsening depression and somehow slow (or preferably reverse) the retreating. Oh yeah... and do loads more marking.

Doc essentially forbade me to continue with honours, the psych, honours co-ordinator and supervisor agreed. So honours for me is now indefinitely put off. It's very disappointing, and I need to somehow 'move on' and stop stressing over it. This happened because my blood pressure has been very bad since the kidney infection a couple of months back. The diastolic has been around 100 far too often. I've also been told to go on a severe diet and exercise regime, that so far, I've found impossible to follow properly (especially the exercise part - too much pain and exhaustion).

Anyhow... I'm sure I'll be posting more regularly now that my domain and computer both seem to be more stable than me....

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Forbidden to complete honours

The doctor has stated, rather forcibly that she "will not be responsible for my health if I continue to study". I will now be intermitting honours for an indefinite period to try to reduce stress and gain some health back. She would also prefer that I stop work and just do nothing for several months, but that is simply not possible. (Blood pressure was up further yesterday). *sigh* As I was 1 point under my degree I do not have a piece of paper for the BCS, as I was enrolled in the old honours course consisting of one 48 point subject, I can not get official credit for the subjects I have completed (nearly 21 points), or the part of the project I have done. Essentially I won't be qualified until I complete honours. *bah*

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Planting and pruning

It's the time of year to start growing things again.. it's meant to be getting warmer and currently my garden is sprouting daffodils, jonquils, snow drops, blue bells and ranunculi all over the place, which make it look a lot more cheerful than the weather is behaving.

Currently planted and growing happily are snow peas (flowering but not yet setting pods), broad beans (aquadulce), parsley (going mad!), nasturtiums (not flowering), rosemary, lavender, hyssop, rocket, thyme, valerian, comfrey, snapdragons. In pots inside I have various house plants which I haven't killed (yet!) oregano, mint, coriander and more thyme. The jalapeno pepper is hanging on by a thread, the strawberries have given into the wet conditions and will need to be removed. Recently potted: miniature lemon meyer, nectarine (nectarzee), lime (kaffir), passionfruit (nelly kelly) and various lavender shoots.

Awaiting potting is a new strawberry (which needs to be joined by 3-4 others when I get time to go to the nursery). Six different types of seed potatoes have been planted (bison, nicola, ruby lou, desiree, kennebec, toolangi delight), requiring an emergency trip to Bunnings to get straw and B&B. I spread about 30 cloves of garlic along the edge of the bed, hoping they will have enough room to grow happily. My heated seed bed is planted with lemongrass, mesclun lettuce mix, basil, carrots, chives, garlic chives, marigolds and coriander, all of which seem to be doing marvelously, despite the low-ish lighting.

Next to plant are more carrots, parsnips, beans, peas, spinach, lettuce, radish, turnips, dill, fennel, nasturtiums, feverfew, chammomile, alyssum, poppies, hollyhocks, moonflowers, spring onions, and too many more... but of course spread out, especially as I only have one heated seed tray.

Health kick (enforced)

Having spent the last few weeks running round visiting all my doctors and specialists (after a kidney infection showed I had high blood pressure), I've been ordered to go on a massive health kick. The kidney specialist wasn't all that concerned about the kidney infection (hadn't had one of those since I was a kid), but warned me to stay clear of salt and monitor the blood pressure. The two non-usual doctors I saw for the infection had mentioned blood pressure medication, but wanted to monitor for a few more weeks before deciding. As the BP is jumping all over the place (from normal to really high, especially the distolic), and changing quite fast, it can't simply be one consistent problem, meaning there is at least a decent size stress problem affecting it.

So, my regular doc (who just got back from holidays) has ordered a huge lifestyle change for a few months at least. This includes:

  • no dairy, wheat, rice, pasta, red meat, caffeine
  • little salt, sugar
  • loads of water, fresh fruit and veg, veg juice and veg soup
  • no painkillers or sleeping tablets (under any circumstances)
  • 30+ mins walking 5+ times a week
  • yoga 5+ times a week
  • 20 mins meditation 5+ times a week
  • As organic as possible

Add that to my attempts at getting rid of parabens, chemicals, etc, and I feel like I'm going completely batty. I haven't been able to do yoga more than 3 times a week, partly due to pain, partly to tiredness. Even simple (but bad) tension/sinus headaches have knocked me out as I typically take pain killers to carry on with cleaning/work. Thus study has completely stopped (not that it has had a chance to start again). My moods have become more manic and more depressed, partly due to increased pain, codeine withdrawal and break through bleeding (probably also due to the above). My body is hurting, particularly the shoulders and neck from tension, lower back from sciatica and chest (front and back) from costo flaring again. So here I am, just managing to get through one day at a time, each day feeling worse, not being able to work, clean, study, live...

Friday, July 9, 2004

Bad kidneys

I learnt today about the relationship between the kidneys and blood pressure. Kidneys help regulate blood pressure, and high blood pressure damages the kidneys. This was brought up as I have had an actual kidney infection (the first since I was a child). This is unusual as I typically get UTIs but not kidney infections. For the first time in a long time my blood pressure was read and was incredibly high (I'm normally normal). I have been given an ultimatum, either get the BP down with lifestyle changes (more exercise, less stress, etc) and lose some weight, or go on medication. I guess the several months of high stress and pain has taken it's toll, raising my BP and in turn infecting the already half dead kidneys. The kidney specialist will be quite disappointed with me :-\

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow

Although the science (especially where temperature was concerned) was quite dodgy, this was a very good movie. I hope the governments of the world take note, but I doubt they will pay attention as it is a fairly radical and sensationalistic representation of a possible future. The effects were most impressive, apart from the wolves, which seemed to be developed on outdated cgi models for all aspects (movement, muscle interplay, fur movement, etc). I don't think they added anything to the story and probably would have been better left out.

The most unbelievable aspect of the movie was the snap freezing in the eye of the storm. With no air movement, everything completely snap froze from the top down - ground level was last to freeze. The explanation put forward was the supercooled air from the top of the atmosphere was flowing downwards, causing a temperature drop of 10 degrees per second (IIRC). However, I did love the water effects through the streets of New York (although I don't think those buildings would have withstood such flooding).

There is a novelisation available by Whitley Strieber, which has received mixed reviews. I am unlikely to read it as I have found that novelisations tend to lack the depth implied by the movies, by good acting, good soundtracks and scenery. You need a very experienced author who is capable of writing with depth of description, expansion of story and character and extreme clarity to achieve a good novel based on a movie.

A neat movie, with believable acting, a good but not overly memorable score by Harald Kloser, and decent effects. Even though there were some horribly flashing lightning scenes, I did not get a headache (possibly as I saw it in a smaller cinema, which is typically not as completely dark as places like Village and Hoyts). I hope many people see the movie, and are encouraged to look after the environment more than they currently do.

Leave taken

With the doctor's encouragement, I've taken 3 weeks of annual leave (only 7.5 days as I'm part time!).

This is partly to aid recovery from the long term virus that I've had for nigh on a year now, and partly to try to get somewhere with the outstanding honours work that I wasn't able to get done during this past semester.

I'm still having horrific nightmares which leave me quite dead emotionally, and exhausted physically. At least I'm not having much trouble sleeping for a decent amount of time each night, as I used to.

My annual review went well, my new supervisor is experienced with long term health issues, which is a huge benefit when dealing with my situation. I caught up with the honours supervisor and now need to update my medical documentation (Thursday) to support a case for extension till the end of the year which will be put before the education committee (or at least the chair of that committee).

My duties in second semester will most likely be able to be blocked into chunks (no teaching), apart from attending an honours subject and consulting for various first, second and potentially third year subjects. All additional duties would probably be able to be done from home, so I may only need to attend uni for one to two days a week. Hopefully that will help honours and health. Due to the increasing flexibility requirements of my health, I don't feel comfortable asking for the third semester teaching bonus, especially as I won't be lecturing over summer in future.

The last few weeks have been pretty horrendous in most ways (pain, depression, virus, and a possible UTI for the first time in years). In an effort to reduce the overall background (really foreground at the moment) pain level, I'm completely off dairy again, and trying to cut down on sugar, salt, fat, meat and processed foods.

The pantry is slowly being converted to organic produce and cleaning chemicals are gradually being replaced with natural cleaning solutions. I'm trying to reduce the amount of chemicals (especially parabens) in body and face care products, having made my own toothpaste and found an organic mouthwash.

As usual, at the start of an extended period of leave, I exhausted myself rearranging rooms, gardening, cleaning, etc. My hours are shot - I don't manage to get to sleep until it is light, which is fine for watching UEFA 2004, but not for the days where I need to get up around 9ish.

Maybe I should swing my hours forwards, rather than trying to hold them back. I need to be at uni at 9 on Thursday!

I, Robot

Isaac Asimov - I, Robot

Having recently seen the preview of the film version of I, Robot, I was intrigued enough to read the book. It is presented as a collection of short stories, or memorable encounters with complications caused by interplay the three laws of robotics. It was very engaging to try to guess how the problems in each situation occured, some were quite convoluted. The style of writing is quite conversational, with minimal scientific jargon, many political and social overtones, and was very easy to read. I was left trying to puzzle out other potential dilemmas, which was probably the aim of the novel. I will certainly be reading the whole series.

There doesn't seem to be much of a connection with the book, and the preview of the movie, apart from the title and the three fundamental laws. But the effects look neat, so I'll probably see it (but not before I finish the series).

Monday, June 14, 2004


For those who are squeamish, probably best to not read on...

Mirena (IUD) and a fairly large adenomyoma do not coexist peacefully, at least not at the beginning, and especially not when the IUD was inserted with NO ANAESTHETIC!

Thursday was the most painful day I have ever had, even tripling doses of Mersyndol Forte didn't completely get rid of the pain, although it did get rid of my insomnia.

I think I passed out at some stage, there are gaps in my memory between screaming. I could sit up later at night in front of the TV still majorly medicated with pain killers and not moving. If I moved, that was the trigger for much more pain.

Friday wasn't much better, but I slept for longer and therefore needed fewer pain killers. Bowel movement was extremely painful. Migraine had developed during the night, and stuck around all day.

Saturday I was ok-ish in the morning, but every time I started doing things, the pain got bad enough to curl up back in bed. Migraine still just as bad though.

Sunday, a bit better again, pain pattern has changed from the aggravated Mirena pain, to more of a period pain. I was able to wander around the house and do bits and pieces, as long as there wasn't much bending or lifting involved. Migraine cleared up sometime, although there is still pressure around my eyes.

Monday (today) I fainted in the shower. Last I remembered was reaching up to put a bottle on the top of the door, then found myself on the floor, water running quite cold, the shower door cracked, right toes killing and broken plastic bottles leaking outside the shower. Don't know how long I was there. Cramps came back with a vengeance so I went back to bed and slept. Unfortunately that meant I missed consultation, and other important work things.

I haven't read anywhere of symptoms of missing a dose of Effexor (anti-depressant) including fainting. There are lots of mentions of brain 'zaps', which is not very descriptive, as that could mean brain jumps subjects - hard to concentrate, or pain spikes in very localised areas.

Anyhow... am taking it easy, and hoping to be at uni on Wednesday for the final consultation session.

Friday, June 11, 2004


Recommendation, don't get adeno then require a Mirena (IUD) for treatment, and get it inserted without some kind of anaesthetic. It hurts like hell... the worst I've ever felt. Now am just dealing with the after effects of lots of painkillers and still feeling like my abdomen has been repeatedly hit by a very heavy meat mallet. I got my first smurf comment tonight, thanks to shorter blue hair. This post courtesy of Wiruen, my wireless CF net connected Zaurus. Gee, too much geekiness... goodnight!

Monday, June 7, 2004

New hair


Spikey, short, punky, blue hair. Neat! And so much lighter than the long plaits.

I still have the plait, I'll hang onto it until photos are taken, and then look into selling it to a wig maker (although, blue hair really isn't in demand, and it will not bleach!).

The hairdresser at Brandon Park (Quadro) did a good job, although it's a little longer than I expected, the colours actually look brighter - almost newly dyed.

Therefore I will not be re-dying for a little while to give the hair a little more time to recover and discover it can be messy and stick upwards. It's so used to sitting flat that it does not want to be spiked and stay spiked, no matter how much gunk is there holding it ;>

Saturday, June 5, 2004


I seem to be getting many questions from family and friends (and even from online people) about what to do about their health, and the side effects of medications (including when mixed with other medications and alcohol). It feels strange to be answering these questions, especially when I get specifically phoned by my family. It shows their complete lack of faith in the doctor that they have all used over their lifespans. This doctor mis-diagnosed me too many times as a child, and I have been telling them for years that he is crap. Although they agree with me now, they refuse to see a new doctor. I don't understand it.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Lime and Garlic Chicken

Lovely chicken cooked last night (with broccoli, corn cobs, and fresh fruit salad - healthy)!

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

1.5 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1 tsp thyme

2-4 chicken breasts cut into thick slices and then flattened a bit with a meat tenderiser

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp lime juice

1/2 c chicken broth (opt)

Combine all the spices together and coat chicken pieces well. Heat butter and oil (be careful - it will spit!) and add chicken to pan. Turn occasionally till cooked (don't let it blacken), remove to a plate. Add lime juice (and broth if using it), mixing well. Be careful, this spits enormously and set my smoke alarm off. Once it has reduced by about half, put the chicken back in, coating well. Serve with any vegetables you feel like, garlic mashed potatoes work well.

Play with the quantities of the spices, I reduced the cayenne and pepper to the quantities above, and it was still very spicy! (Altered from original source - Saving Dinner: Garlic Lime Chicken by Leanne Ely (, page 57-58, Ballantine Books, 2003)

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Medicine allergies

It seems that I have an allergy to Imovane, or so the doctor believes. At least it's a bad combination with Effexor for me, so back to Normosan to help sleeping.

I've been plagued with long bouts of yawning recently, about 2-3 yawns per minute for over half an hour at various times. Laying down helps, as does eating strong minty things. My jaw is killing me though. A web search (excessive yawning) reveals that it's probably due to not getting enough sleep. Well, duh....

Sunday, May 16, 2004


Two days into Imovane for insomnia and I'm back to feeling paralysed, exactly why I started anti-depressants in the first place. There is an ugly taste in my mouth and I'm fairly nauseous and slightly dizzy.

Whether this is caused by the sleeping tablets and will subside with further use, I have no idea.

It might be due to a cold virus that seems to be attacking me at the moment.

It's a dramatic change from last week on Normosan (temazepam) for insomnia, where I was progressing towards cheerfulness and getting many more things done. Bah....

Thursday, May 13, 2004


This is more of an essay... long, rambling and uncut.

I had an interesting conversation with my psych yesterday. Being on anti-depressants (while I continue to cut ties with my family), the doctor had recommended I start seeing the psych again regularly as psychotherapy works better when combined with appropriate medications (or so many studies indicate). We shall see. In any case, the catchup session was surface, with little delving as there was so much to cover. At some stage she commented that she was completely amazed that I am still keeping on going on. Still working, still trying to study, still trying new things to help my health, and haven't given up on anything much yet. "Most people with such chronic illnesses typically would not get out of bed, and would be at the ER at least once a week, let alone keeping a house, walking, keeping up with friends (albeit irregularly), working, studying. It's quite incredible, and shows you have so much determination", she said.

Thinking a little about that comment, and the people in the various support groups I have been in for endo and adeno, it's probably completely correct.

Over the last four years I have seen my ability to do things decrease. The pain has increased, I can't walk for long, stand for long, work for long stretches, concentrate for long stretches, etc. But I refuse to push myself past the point where I would collapse and be hospitalised, or at least bed-ridden for a week. I rest when I need it, avoid the computer when I can't stand it, avoid my family for longer stretches, and try not to do as much as I once would have. It's sad seeing that I can't, and for a while I pushed myself to old levels and very nearly burnt out.

I'm dreading second semester and administering the technical documentation subject, as I'm really not capable to handle that in my current state, but I'm sure I'll have help from colleagues when I need it.

Another interesting tangent was about seeing the positive, or rather not being able to see the positives. Due to extensive psychotherapy s a kid, I can too easily psychoanalyse myself in any situation. I can see the positives, I can see the negatives much easier, but I do try to push myself daily to see positives. However, I don't feel them.

Starting about 2 weeks back, I've been able to feel a little, mainly in the smell of cypress, pine and other conifers; watching the desperate attempts at growth in my neglected garden (grr aphids); had fun playing with a stupid dog's mind (stared at her, and she hasn't stopped barking at the driveway since - it was hilarious the first time); smiling at the insane numbers of birds around the house (including the silly minah that taps on my bedroom window while talking to his reflection in the mornings). I sense a theme here, and a reflection of my childhood refuge. Nature is not controlled by humans.

I felt claustrophobic walking over the south eastern freeway today (a 6 lane highway) with all the open space around me, just because it was so barren and frantic. As soon as I got to the other side, I giggled at a wattlebird who was sitting in a tree chattering at me (and didn't fly away when I walked over to it). I think I'm getting somewhere, much better than not feeling anything at all.

Towards the world in general, I still don't feel much - the news of an evening is either filled with meaningless chatter about football stars appealing their 4 game suspension (because they kicked someone in the head), governments being completely stupid, and inane stories showing just how removed from the world most major media corporations really are. The more accurate news channels report atrocity after atrocity - not good inspirational stories. I shan't think about this too much, I'll just enjoy the wattlebirds that are frolicking in the pond outside my window.

The doc is pleased at my progress with the Effexor. Nausea has almost gone, appetite has certainly decreased, I've lost 3kg in 3 weeks! Insomnia is still bad. I can't function continuously on broken short sleep, and am racking up a substantial sleep deficit. Doc reckons Effexor will also dampen pain levels, which I'm looking forward to. The costo flare and period has knocked me around, and it will take a few weeks to recover from it. Being late taking the Effexor only has the effect of some tremors and no concentration, although I can't really tell if that is more due to the lack of sleep. I've had really bad yawning fits the last three days.

Enough rambling.. I'd better find out what the actual time is, then clean up the house for a few minutes... I need more sleep :-\

Monday, May 10, 2004


I managed to survive the most hellish week I have had pain wise since my last operation, and even then, I think this surpassed the operation recovery pain.

I have a couple of Mersyndol forte, and half a packet of Panadeine forte left. More should be delivered on Wednesday.

I hate being so low on pain killers because if either the adenomyosis or costochondritis flares up badly, I go through them very quickly. Now I just have to wait for the blood to be reabsorbed, which will take about 5 days, give or take 2 days. At least I can walk around fairly easily now. Bending and sitting is still quite difficult.

My new toy helped me pass time in bed, playing scrabble. I even won, once. The Zaurus is very nice, easy to use, but not many applications are on the native ROM. I will probably move to Open Zaurus with a different calendar (I need icons or at least colours for categories!), and extra applications for shopping, inventory, moon phases, games, German-English dictionary (and maybe flash cards or something), ebooks/etext reader, weather plug-in, and Perl.

Wednesday, May 5, 2004


The combination of pain killers, antibiotics and anti-depressants is very strange, especially when coupled with a period which normally leaves me weak anyway. I feel like my arms and legs are 'fizzing'.

My pulse is erratic (very fast and light at the moment), my torso feels completely sluggish and heavy, and my neck keeps cramping around my throat-collarbone area.

My chest feels extremely badly bruised from the flare of costochondritis on Monday, which had me hardly breathing, and required too much medication to control.

I don't know what is causing my sore throat, or the costo, possibly the virus is jumping into any part of my body that is feeling vulnerable.

Thoughts and vision are jumping all over the place due to tiredness - I only got about 2-3 hours sleep.

Bernd (honours supervisor) bumped into me today, I had been avoiding him as I haven't done anything honours wise. He was quite understanding though, so I shouldn't have any problems just dragging on and getting little bits done here and there, until it's finally finished.

I wanted to make cookies and a cake last night, but didn't manage to get to the shops to get tapioca and rice flour for the cake, and fell asleep sometime in the afternoon, only waking when the boys got there for their usual Settlers game.

A white tail fell out of washing that I was folding up to put away, of course it was squashed and binned immediately. However, I had a weird bite on my foot this morning, with strange discolourations around it. I hope it wasn't another spider - there is a mutual hatred between me and white tails. They jump out and attack me when they see me, and I try to kill them when I see them (after I get past the freeze/fright stage). No one believes me when I mention that they are trying to take over the world.

Wombats are also aiming for that goal (except they always seem to fall asleep).  

If you haven't read "Diary of a Wombat" by Jackie French, you should - it's hilarious!

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Nasty side effects

The first dose of Effexor had me shaking continuously for about 12 hours, starting 3 hours after taking the tablet. Touch me anywhere, and you would have felt the fast and continuous muscle tremors. My brain feels fractured, but definitely more alert. I can't concentrate on anything or do anything strenuous for any length of time. Nausea is a big problem, especially when I yawn, perhaps due to yawning using a similar action to retching. I also wonder if Effexor is a diuretic, I've been really thirsty and fluids are just going straight through. I've also got my base weight down 2kg in a week - possibly due to less fluid retention. I haven't found any comments about this on the web though, so it may be something else.

These side effects were decreasing, until I doubled the dose two days ago. Again, uncontrollable tremors, inability to focus (vision and concentration), nausea, and a new one - very bad insomnia, in the last two nights I've had a maximum of 7 hours sleep.

People commented today on how calm and quiet I was, without realising that it was actually due to being completely dazed and sleepy! I have been on average a lot warmer than usual, today seemed far too hot though. Unfortunately the virus seems to have worsened, turning into laryngitis and an ear infection, so I'm not sure which of the symptoms are linked to the virus or are actually side effects of the anti-depressant.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Fizzy brain

Seems like too many people I know have been or are on anti-depressants, and now I have joined them. After two tablets I can't tell whether my shakiness, vagueness, dry mouth, nausea and headaches are due to the medication, or the virus I've currently got. Apparently, due to not looking after myself (and not realising I had a virus), it has moved into the muscles and produced arthritis like symptoms. I just thought it was my ankle and wrists getting worse, but went to the doc when most joints/muscles started aching. I should have realised that my glands were up, throat raw and I was suffering from a low grade fever, but then I'm not noticing much these days.

The last 4 or so months have had few 'up' periods, many downward turns, with the associated withdrawing, no motivation to do anything, weight gain, and no interest in anything. Since I starting teaching in 1999, I have never had that happen, and the larger leaps down can pinpoint the days I met with my boss and the other ALs, discussing the loss of our jobs next year (the Computer Science department is being forcibly downsized).

It's odd, but in the last week I've come across several people who I thought had known about my past history of being abused as a kid and being in several abusive relationships. Mood swings are harder to deal with when older, as there are more responsibilities (keep a house, a job, difficult study, be independent etc.).

I wonder if the medication will help or worsen my already horrific nightmares, and I desperately hope they don't bring on flashbacks such as I had earlier this year and late last year. Having read many comments about Effexor, I am nervous of the side effects and especially the withdrawal.

After many years of regular counselling, and being chronically ill for most of that time to various degrees, I've learnt to listen to my body. Not necessarily to heed it's warnings, however. I am doing all I can for the illness side of things and not making much of a dent, if any. Now it's time to focus on breaking the mood-swing cycle, or at least side-lining it for a while.


How cute - 256MB glow-in-the-dark USB storage iDucks. I want the blue one ;>

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Eyeball jewellery?!

Implanting little hearts, stars or moons into the eye is apparently the new trend in piercing, and the pioneering surgeons have a waiting list of people wanting to shove bits of metal into their eyes and call it jewellery. It was claimed that this was more subtle than body piercing.. but I don't for a minute believe it's less invasive and has no side effects.... Yuck.

Monday, April 19, 2004


Bernie and I are thinking of both getting a Zaurus. Bernie would get much more playing use out of it, and most likely have a lot of fun doing it. I would use it as a replacement brain - reminding me of what I should be doing, when. At the moment, dates and times of appointments and outings are the hardest to remember. But then I'd probably move on to various other forms of tracking (progress on craft projects, collections, pantry, menus), possibly moving into reading various things on there. Don't know about that as I hate computer screens, but LCD are a lot better than standard monitors. Oh, how I wish for a flat screen to fit _in front_ of me while I work, instead of working on an angle and making diagonal depressions on my leg from the corners of the drawers.


TV stations need to stop putting good music shows on late at night, they keep stopping me from sleeping at a reasonable time. The other night there were two excellent documentaries, one about the head of the music department at Sydney University. This was an exact picture of how it is currently at my university - cutting funding for teaching, requiring more hours and research on top of lengenthed teaching and admin work. I guess it's this the world over in the world of academia. Sad really.

The second documentary was a very well done picture of several women who contracted AIDS, following their lives, dreams and peoples responses to them. Last night ABC showed Sondheim's musical/opera - Sweeny Todd; the demon barber of Fleet Street. I was suprised that one of the singers was actually the actor who played Dougie Howser MD, and although it was obvious he was definately not a classically trained singer, the character he portayed needed the kind of raw, simple voice that he had. The lead female (Mrs Lovett) was incredible, but had a striking resemblence to Deana Troi. I think I had seen a production of this a long time ago, or at least heard the music on the radio at some stage as it seemed very familiar to me.

But both nights saw me in bed around 2am... not good when I'm trying to swing to being more of a morning person. As a result, I have a migraine today :-\

Thursday, April 15, 2004


Sheri S. Tepper - Sideshow

I found this to be even better than The Revenants. Sideshow seemed more mature, smoother, deeper and better narrated. Again, this book has a political and sociological undercurrent, exploring how various culturally separate societies would deal with the situation where a beneficial symbiont has infected most of the galaxy and now seemed to be attacking their people (theirs is the only known planet to have evaded infection so far, and is not in contact with the rest of the galaxy at all). The governments of all provinces believe that the organism actually enslaves humans, and thus tries to eradicate it using any means necessary.

The characters are very carefully developed at the beginning of the book, pushing the plot development back which causes a little confusion for a while regarding how various narrative threads relate to each other. Very enjoyable with many unexpected plot twists and character developments.

Travelling birds

Spectacular footage of a huge range of birds during their different migrations around the world enabled this film to live up to it's amazing reputation. The soundtrack contributed to the feeling of wonder at the effort the birds spend in travelling halfway (or more) across the world each 6 months. It makes the small walks I do to and from work seem insignificant. Probably best seen with an excellent sound system, and if flashing lights are bothersome, use a small amount of back lighting (I got a headache from some of the busier scenes due to the regular 'flashing'). An incredible movie.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004


How to claw back from depression? The kind where you can do absolutely nothing even though you need to. This bout seems to be caused by the looming job cuts at university (I won't be lecturing any more), and finally cutting ties with the rest of my abusive family. I can manage short bursts of routine non-thinking things like cleaning and washing, but not for long. Even work is starting to be neglected. Study hasn't been looked at in ages. Anti-depressants are not an easy option as I've been found to be allergic or badly reactive to three different types, need to be very careful of my kidneys, try to not trigger more migraines, or increase pain levels, or worsen insomnia.

Speaking of which, insomnia has worsened over the past few weeks, enough that I keep waking up every 20 or so minutes, and can't sleep for more than 5 hours. Valerian, homeopathic remedies, meditation, deep relaxation, yoga and various other things work for a bit, but at the moment, everything has stopped working.

Attempting to distract from the depression by starting a patchwork quilt, working on the garden, knitting, trying to get organised and stuck into a routine also hasn't done a thing. The routine never really starts.

I was lent a book recently: "Authentic Happiness" by Martin Seligman, but found it didn't really explain anything radically new. I seem to have read enough self-help books and website, and been through enough psychotherapy to have covered most of the ideas in this book. It does not, however, deal with people who are depressed and dealing with chronic pain - it notes in one sentence that people who are in such ongoing pain will always suffer spiralling depression - I don't agree with the 'always' blanket. My results of all of the little quizzes/ratings in the book were fairly extreme, except for the quiz about vengeance (for the abuse I suffered), which was at least something positive.

I experienced this when doing the workplace THRIVE workshops (a sequence of 8 seminar/discussions about various topics: motivation, scheduling, anger, sleep, etc). Absolutely nothing was new to me, and in fact only scratched the basics, but it was interesting seeing the other people there be amazed at the concepts I thought were basic common sense and/or knowledge.

So... how to find motivation to do stuff? Especially honours.... still desperately searching, but running out of options. I need a very long holiday from work, study and me.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Runaway knee

My knee wants to leave me. It's being bombarded by sharp, spiking pain from my sciatic and also by the deep, throbbing, radiating pain of my ankle (I went over on it a couple of days ago, badly, and can't find my ankle brace). The sciatic flared because I had horrific adeno/digestion pain yesterday, cause unknown. It's unlikely to be the dairy in the risotto I made on Saturday, because it would have flared up when I ate a fair amount of white and milk chocolate a little while back. It's probably all due to stress - I am beating myself up about not being able to get any honours work done. I just can't concentrate, everything I try either makes me hurt more or feel more guilty. I hate vicious cycles.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Blue hair

Long blue hair (2004) Blue hair (2004)

I've since written my instructions for dying hair this shade of dark blue/purple.

Dying complete

It's actually closer to the original intended colour (dark deep blue) than the dye I used (combination of blue and purple). There are dark teal streaks peeking out from dark blue, almost black sections beginning at deep velvety blue/purple hair at the roots. The bleach made the roots white this time and let the blue penetrate the already dyed parts.

If I need a touch up colour, I'll probably go for pure purple. I was a worried that it would turn out pink and thus used the blue dye in combination with the purple, but I never expected this much blue!

My hair also got a trim to try to reduce the split ends, but with the amount of knotting and matting on drying, I don't think it worked. Bleach is cruel, tomorrow night I'll put a long conditioning treatment in. If I don't like the colour tomorrow, when viewed in the sun, there are two boxes of black on standby (they are actually quite moisturising).

Sunday, April 4, 2004


I have started on a new scarf, made from a multi-tone Mirragio wool (multiple textures). As I'm using size 9 needles, it's growing very fast, especially now that I've got into the rhythm of knitting again. It looks like I'll need to get a couple more balls of wool as I'm not following the pattern (using one size smaller needles, 30 instead of 20 stitches per row) as I like long scarves.

My mother commented that long scarves aren't in fashion, I wonder when she'll catch onto the fact that I don't follow the fashion trends, I wear and make what I feel comfortable in.

Anyhow, back to work... plagiarism checking is tedious.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Autumn murmurings

For the first time in a long time I got home (walked) as the sun set. It was the most gorgeous sunset I have ever seen, and I'm kicking myself that I don't regularly carry a camera. Add to that the numerous trees turning beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow, and it was a lovely walk home, even though I was carrying a heavy bag, and it was along a main road. I even rang Bernie at work to make him look at the sunset ;> Don't know if he did though.

The marking has started, which means the year has begun in earnest. I'm only doing the plagiarism check, which is going to take long enough. I hope there aren't too many. This week it's 1304 assignments (essays). In a couple of weeks it's the 1303 written programming test, followed the next week by the next 1304 assignment (website).

Looks like honours is going to be bowled over by work yet again :-\ I'm beginning to hate the combination of study & work at the same location. Work takes much more than the appointed hours. Study also takes at least double the suggested hours, more when you take into account the time getting into the right mind-frame, which is highly necessary for honours. Considering I'm hopeless at context switching, keeping work at work only, and studying in general, it's no wonder I'm not getting anywhere.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Too much to do...

I'm exhausted, possibly because there is too much staring at me, needing to be done. Loads of cleaning, gardening, sewing, crafts on top of honours, exercising and cooking, and I'm too tired to do any of it. Bleh.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Tinkling rain

Now that the pain is lessening I am finding I am able to think and actually start to get more things done. I even managed to get in some gentle bellydancing today, and am about to start ironing patchwork cloth pieces. There is some new cloth staring at me, goading me into hand washing it, so I might get that done too before I crash. I also want to get some of the bibliography typed up for the paper that I'm running oh-so-far-behind on. I managed to organise my web-bookmarks, yahoo account, and sort through my email.

Slowly but surely I feel like I have a bit more space in my head. The last 4-5 days have been hellish pain-wise. The adeno pain was feeding from the sciatic and costochondritis pain in lovely feedback loop, and it left me leaning very heavily on strong medications. I haven't had to do that for a while, and would love to know what the trigger was. Bernie and I both think it was not caused by yoga, or the small amount of dairy I have been having off and on. Ahh well.

The office ladies have bought little rubber stoppers to hold the heavy doors at work open for me - they are so sweet! I'll be filling in a 'hazards' form tomorrow to submit to the building designers and the health & safety people. The heaviness and awkwardness of those doors are directly contributing to the worsening of my current bout of costochondritis. Those doors are impossible for disabled people to operate - they are so heavy and awkward. I have no idea how they passed the normally stringent design requirements of a university.

Rest, gentle exercise and warmth is all I can do to help it get better, although the 10 day course of anti-inflamms has given it a good kick start. Maybe it was them that made my pain get worse? I wouldn't put it past them upsetting my stomach. Who knows.

(Update: due to kidney disease, I can no longer have anti-inflammatory medications. Anti-inflammatories can cause kidney failure in people with damaged kidneys).

Interesting options

Livejournal is actually quite complex and customisable, however, I'm hopeless with colour, so am going with a default-ish theme for the time being. Still playing with various features, bells and whistles. Now hopefully I'll be less frustrated when trying to follow various groups and people, however, I don't think it's appropriate for tracking high volume groups. I'll still do that from outside LJ.

First post

Heh... Who would have thought... I now have a livejournal. I'll probably still post more on Athrist. Note: Athrist entries have been ported into here due to database instability on a local Wordpress installation.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Lumps of overtime

I know that I would never be paid overtime, or my hours raised, but currently I'm doing 30 hours per week for an 18 hour per week contract. And I'm not even teaching any classes! I have to track my hours closely this semester as I would be making any time under contract limit up with marking. I've just let everyone involved know I'm doing as little as possible to eat the 'overtime' up. Some of the tutors are taking up more time than they should by not following instructions on entering marks and timesheets, and ringing me for non-emergencies when I'm not at uni. *grumble*

What is it with people (tutors) this semester? We've had a total of about 15 tutors pull out because they found 'better offers', whether that be tutoring 'better subjects' or new jobs. Only one had mentioned in advance that they were looking/applying for other jobs. Some are refusing to be truthful and accurate in what hours they are claiming for meetings and preparation. On the other hand, I'm mightily annoyed that the tutors do not get paid past 1 hour of prep for some of the more difficult subjects. However, it should not take that long on average, and to be fair, the tutors should spend an hour and then stop as that is all they are getting paid for. They also should not claim for time longer than they spent. *more annoyed grumbling*

I need to get out of here, but judging from friends experiences, it's no better anywhere else. Obviously this is murdering my honours study, as my health does not allow more than an equally divided part time work & study arrangement. However, I did draw up a schedule of due dates and marking dates which seemed to indicate I can finish by the end of the year (providing I am not stuck with ALing technical documentation, yet again, which by past experience is more like a 60 hour per week position for an 18 hour contract).

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Hair stripping


I'm going to be trying all sorts of suggestions for removal of bright unusual hair colours, in preparation for the next round of bleaching and a new bright/dark unusual hair colour. Plans include hot oil treatments, anti-dandruff shampoo (even though I've never had that!), Pantene shampoo/conditioner (I noticed these ripped the colour out the first time I dyed it), and other intensive conditioning treatments. Possibly even swimming in a chlorinated pool/spa (but I would have to wear a cap). I'm hopefully re-dying my hair a different colour next weekend (or the one after). When I get sick of that colour, it will go black, then be cut to around one inch in plenty of time for winter.

Most people think I'm insane for wanting short hair over winter, but I really hate the matted hair look that I get when wearing scarves. It's also insanely painful when brushing out the knots! The trip to Germany taught me that this length is impossible during winter (but I had to keep the length to do the long blue hair).

On another completely unrelated note, I did a Myers Briggs test again recently, and came up with my usual INFP, with over 90% introvertedness. The 10% extrovert must be my hair ;> Doing the word association test (as opposed to the 'short statements' version) resulted in ISTJ - the first time I've ever got a 'Thinking' instead of 'Feeling' result. The S/N and J/P swap-over is unsurprising as I'm always borderline, however I've become much more Judging (as opposed to Perceiving) since I started lecturing. I try to do one of these tests each year, to see how the results change.

The Revenants, by Sheri S. Tepper

Sheri S. Tepper - The Revenants I found this book to be fascinating but sometimes difficult to follow. There are many twists and interlocking story lines, interesting cultures and characters that all warrant further stories as the depth of the background is hinted at, but not explored. The storyline itself is mostly based on the classic fantasy quest, but with the variety of characters and scenery, it still seemed fresh and interesting. I wish there was more!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

New/old ailments

Once again, I've been diagnosed with costochondritis (inflammation of the cartilage between ribs and sternum). It's a very painful condition, and not treatable by any natural means, the only medication that works is anti-inflammatories. But there is a new anti-inflammatory medication available that is much more gentle on the stomach and kidneys, if taken with food. My chest is currently bad enough that I do I need to take them, or I will be unable to move.

I've had costochondritis since I was in school, where I regularly suffered from intense stabbing pain in the chest, leaving me unable to breathe. That's when I developed the ability to breathe and function on a tiny amount of air. It got bad enough early in year 11 that I had to stop all wind instruments and singing, which was annoying as I had just got the conductor to agree that I learn tenor sax on top of everything else (piano, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, percussion, violin, singing). I turned my hand to teaching and conducting the choir, which I did throughout the rest of my time at secondary school, and it seemed to produce better results than previous choir masters.

The doctor at that time had told me that the costochondritis was only due to posture, and there was no way to fix it unless I fixed my posture. This doctor has made so many mis-diagnoses of me and my family over the years. My current doc said it wasn't to do with posture, and was only exacerbated by stress. They don't know what causes it, but because I have non-specific inflammation, my chest is susceptible to it. The more stressed I get, the more my immune system breaks down and the more susceptible I get.

Other 'treatments' (more like preventatives) are: keeping warm, not allowing cold air to get to the chest, light massage, gentle stretching, not stressing, warm baths, swimming and lots of sleep. Sounds lovely, and I certainly plan to do the warm baths thing ;> Not sure I can stop stressing (especially when I have had to re-mark all summer exam papers due to tutors not following the marking guide AGAIN). I'm not in all that much pain from it. I think my body translates continuous pain into fatigue and being unable to concentrate. However, any small amount of pressure anywhere at all hurts terribly, especially where the location is inflammed. If I walk into a door handle (common as I don't have much balance or co-ordination at times like these), I'm in pain for about 10 minutes, several minutes of that, mostly unable to move.

Ahh well.. I will be starting yoga classes again this week at a 'Beginners/Therapeutic' class which is apparently very gentle, in a studio which I have heard uses candles and small classes. Much nicer atmosphere than Monash Sports-and-Rec yoga where there are 30-40 people crammed in so there is no room to stretch out, fluorescent lighting, thumping of aerobics music, yells of martial arts classes and muffles bouncing of basketballs, resulting in an extremely difficult atmosphere to meditate. However, they are cheap for students. This new place is twice the price. The class is too early on a Friday morning, but it might set me up for a good day.

Update - due to kidney disease, I am no longer allowed to take anti-inflammatories. Anti-inflammatory medication can cause kidney failure, especially in those people who do not have healthy kidneys.

Monday, March 8, 2004


Ahh... eye infections... how I love them. At least adding ointment to the right only makes it as blurry as the left so I get re-balanced. Only as long as I don't wear my glasses, which means I can't see anything that I type! Hmm.... why am I still on the computer?

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Dairy free chocolate mud cake

This is a little fiddly, and expensive as it uses 85% dark chocolate. For those who can have dairy, it would probably work equally well with normal chocolate. It is also incredibly fattening.


250g butter (Nuttelex)

1.5 c hot water

3 tbsp hot chocolate powder (Green and Black's organic brand has no dairy)

2 c raw caster sugar 250g 85% dark chocolate (dairy free), chopped

1.5 c self-raising flour

1 c plain flour

.25 c cocoa powder (Green and Black's organic brand has no dairy)

2 eggs (medium-large)

2 tsp vanilla essence


Lots of butter (nuttelex)

1-2 blocks of 85% chocolate (I usually use about 200g),br>
Enough pure icing sugar to make it less runny


Preheat oven to slow (250F, 150C). Grease and line 22cm round cake pan with baking paper. Melt butter in a saucepan, dissolve hot chocolate in hot water then add to saucepan along with sugar and chocolate. Stir mixture over low heat until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and let stand until just warm. Using an electric beater, beat on low speed, while beating add sifted dry ingredients (sifting is very important!) in three batches. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then essence. Pour into pan, bake for about 1.5-1.75 hours (don't overbake or it gets too dry). Stand for 15 minutes then turn onto wire rack to cool (takes around 5 hours or more).

Note - the cake will crack substantially, typically a deep chasm appears as a ring around a raised central section while backing. Don't worry, it will end up flat, but the chasms will remain - I fill them with chocolate icing ;>

Melt butter and chocolate over a low heat, add icing sugar and beat with a whisk until smooth. Pour onto the middle of the cooled cake and spread carefully to cover top then sides. If you have used a larger pan, you will need more icing. You may need cream or dairy free vanilla fruccio if you find it's too chocolatey ;> I prefer to cover the cake in strawberries while the icing is still soft - it doesn't work if the icing has set solid.

Variations Use 1tbsp coffee powder instead of hot chocolate. Use sifted cocoa instead of chocolate icing. Serve with pureed raspberries and cream.

Cold... today?!

Strangely enough, I have been quite cold today. I'm only now warming up (it reckons it's 32°C inside). I was sitting with a blanket wrapped around me at 27°C. Why is it that hardly anyone can spell my name correctly? Especially governmental and banking organisations. It took Medicare eight variations before the hit on the right one, by luck it seems. I left the Bank of Melbourne in disgust (they were up to five variations and ten reminders to pay back my fees as I was a student - never got that two years worth of fees back (about $30 odd)). Now the British passports office data entry people have stuffed up my passport. They had better not require a new passport photo, I have blue hair now, and they require it to be natural coloured. At least they have now returned the police report, so I can finally start the insurance claim process.