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

Gazing

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

Conjunctivitis

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.

Ingredients

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

Icing

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

Method

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.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Another day another sinus infection

Do I have the operation over Easter, or do I wait till honours is finished? It may stop the recurrent sinusitis, but won't help with headaches, and may take a month to recover from. The doc thinks I should wait, with both this operation and trauma counselling (suggested as I'm having really nasty nightmares of childhood abuse which is starting to cause big problems). Get honours done, then get the various op's and treatments. If only I could switch part of my brain or health problems off for a while...