Monday, November 29, 2004


Aurora Borealis photos.

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.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Pretty kitty-kat!

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...