Saturday, November 28, 2009

Haphazard update

Purity

I can't believe how long it is since I have posted here! The last several months have been extremely hectic, despite finishing my contract with the State Library, and focussing on my studies. So, in my usual haphazard style, here is a random update on all sorts of things. Notes about my recent trip to Western Australia will be in another post.

I've fully recovered from the withdrawal effects from Zoladex, and managed to lose a good 10 kg since starting it. I've even broken into the 80s finally. My fitness continues to increase. Since that 20km walk, I walked the straight route between my friends' and home while house sitting (25km), and then the long way. *ouch* I had calculated it to be 33km, but it was 40km! The blisters were legendary, and kept me out of participating in the 50km charity walk at the beginning of November (a good thing too, it was a 32 degree day!) The new insoles are nearly broken in - or rather I've been broken to work with them. They are no good for running though, so I'll look into a set of squishy insoles with met-domes next year - I want to do the couch to 5km challenge when I return from my holiday in Japan next year.

Adenomyosis shrunk a little, endometriosis still hasn't returned, and continuing with the new Mirena and gabapentin, I'm managing really well. All the specialists are very pleased with me, and want me to keep going. I do need to focus on continuing my weight loss (thus the couch to 5k challenge). My vitamin D levels are pretty abysmal though.

My JET 2010 application has been received in Canberra, and now it's a nervous wait until February, when hopefully I'll receive an interview. I found it really difficult to write a two page essay about myself rather than external topics! Blog posts are easy - conversational in tone, and thought stream in style. A formal essay about oneself? Difficult!

My trip to Japan is fully booked, and I'm a little jittery - I've never done a homestay before. I do need to stock up on some warmer clothes, as there will be snow! Before the trip though, I'm still horrendously busy - 15km fun run tomorrow (I will be walking it), and JLPT3 exam next Sunday, then a sprint to finish my TESOL degree before my flight just after Christmas. I don't think I'm going to have time to get into the garden, or restart some of my half-finished cross-stitch and patchwork projects.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Randomness

Flowering

I finally have a working kitty cam again! I now have two of them (one each for Gingy and Smokey), and I'm amazed at how much the quality of web cams have improved since I bought my old Logitech. Coupled with a Sheeva plug, the cameras are on most of the time - just in time for an extended stint of house-sitting.

I've finally finished my contract, but am still stressing about the situation there. I know it's not my problem, but I have a chronic disconnect between knowing and feeling. I'll be taking several months at least, to focus on health and my studies.

I did my longest ever walk, last Wednesday - about 20km, and it hurt. At about 4km to my destination, the sciatic went, making each step agony (for about 2km). I seem to also have strained my shoulder - it's crunching every time I move my arm, and the muscle between the shoulder blade and the spine regularly spasms (I just noticed that 'spasming' is not a valid word). I don't know how I'll make it to 50km, but I'll definitely keep trying! I haven't found a good blister solution yet - the Elastoplast and Scholl blister products squish off to the side of the blisters on the soles of my feet on long walks. Perhaps I need to reapply them every 10km -- that is awfully expensive!

I have an extremely busy several months ahead of me, that 50km walk I mentioned, completing my degree (which I've hardly started), studying an awful lot to try to pass the JLPT3, a trip to WA, and another longer trip to Japan, including a home-stay and culture course.

I survived the 6 months of hell, and I didn't kill anyone! Zoladex (goserelin) has knocked me around badly - my immune system is so weak, that I pick up any virus that is floating around (and there are many on public transport), insomnia has worsened, pain levels are awfully high (especially in my hands, sinus and jaw), and I have almost no short term memory (yes - worse than usual!) But I got though the treatment, and even lost 8kg. The last time I was on the medication, I put on a lot of weight. This time I worked very hard - walking a lot (ow!), and being more strict on my diet. I'll find out if the 6 months of Zoladex shrunk the adenomyomas at the end of November. I also plan to re-test my bone density (Zoladex reduces bone density by about 3%, but I've been doing a lot of weight bearing exercises). On another note, my extremely low vitamin D levels are slowly increasing, not fast enough for the doctors to be happy though. The t-shirt I wore on my last visit to the doc (Keep out of direct sunlight) didn't even receive a comment!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Freeform word association swap

Childhood

A huge thank you to Simone for organising this swap, prompting me to make an extremely belated blog entry. This is for the I say ... and you think ... ? swap on swap-bot.com.

  • Taxman -- I really must do my tax, this year I am finally due at least a small tax refund. I have all of the required paperwork, and I could be earning interest on it instead of the government. I also need to research what is required to set myself up as a contractor. I'm sure next year's tax return will be much more complicated.
  • Material -- I have a huge tour of material, both the dressmaking and quilting, packed away under my bed. It's never been used, because I've always been too busy -- working, and recovering from work. Perhaps I might get around to using it in the near future. I am really looking forward to finishing the quilt top started many months, if not years ago -- my hands will need to recover from the insane amounts of typing before I set the sewing machine up.
  • Format -- why can't document formats used by popular office programs be consistent? I am sick of wrestling Open Office documents (in Word format) to look correct and consistent (and the other way around). Google Documents into both Microsoft and Open Office also require inordinate amounts of tweaking (and once again, the other way around also).
  • File cabinet -- once upon a time I wanted my own filing cabinet to store paperwork at home. These days I associate "filing cabinets" with paperwork-laden workplaces. I wish it could be confident and say that I will see the end of filing cabinets within my lifetime, but I don't think paper will be eliminated from offices any time soon.
  • Ignore -- "I'm not hungry! I'm not hungry!" I wish it were easier to ignore a hungry stomach, especially as they tend to emotionally eat when under crazy amounts of work-stress.
  • Super! -- in which English speaking country is this a common exclamation? It's rarely used in Australia at the moment. I'd love to see a time lapsed model in Google Earth of how language changes are spread. It would be difficult to incorporate and distinguish regions, similar phrases, age ranges and other social information clearly.
  • Hillside debris
  • Fireproof -- the authorities are starting to plan for this year's fire season already. I am dreading the days where everything will be covered in smoke haze, as a back-burn throughout the hills to reduce the fuel load. It's the Australian bush -- fire is a natural and regular occurrence. Personally I think there should be a wider reaching community education program, teaching people in fire prone areas the best ways of accessing information, and explaining the importance of keeping themselves informed at all times. It is not the authority's responsibility to tell every individual when there is a fire in the area. If you live in a fire prone area, and its high risk of fire season, you should always keep an eye on the various websites, listen to the news/radio, and keep in touch with other locals.
  • Blockbuster -- they are gearing up to film The Hobbit! And they have started predicting when the extended editions of the bluray version of the Lord of the Rings will be released! I am so looking forward to these!
  • Snooper -- my cats, who regularly snoop into all accessible cupboards, and one can even open doors by himself!
  • Good will -- a scarce resource in this world!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Damage control

Inside out
nifwlseirff on flickr

Unfortunately, I haven't been online much recently. The insane schedules of several large, under-resourced and unrealistically time-limited projects have forced me to do way too much typing, and extra long hours. In order to actually deliver on these projects, I've had to drastically limit my computer use, and not do anything with my hands outside of hours. No hobbies, gardening, crafting, drawing, stitching, writing, game playing, emailing friends, swapping, cooking, studying... nothing - it was the only way I could keep going. I allowed myself the occasional tweet, FB check, and skimmed the articles piling up in Google Reader. There are still another three stupidly scheduled large projects that are outstanding, so I probably won't be around for a while longer.

I did manage to get out one weekend, and walk around Birdsland and Lysterfield Lake reserves in Upwey/Tecoma. Wandered through the same corner as last time, and a little bit more, that was burned during the February '09 bushfires. The kangaroos were out in force again (it was dusk). The hillsides were slightly eerie - they had a green glow, almost covering the black trunks, but not yet hiding the burnt brown leaves. Most of the trees are shooting new growth from their black trunks - it's a very odd sight. This time, an increased variety of birds were flitting around in larger numbers than when we walked just over a month ago. The soot was still very deep and obvious, where it was slowly mixing in with the dirt on the walking tracks.

I am looking forward to returning there in another month or so - I expect the trees will be covered in greenery again.

Monday, May 25, 2009

All in 100 words

Water Dragon

nifwlseirff on flickr

I have a lot of stuff happening at the moment, with more looming on the horizon. All of which would benefit from me getting past a long-standing procrastination habit. I am pondering getting some help in destuckifying a number of things; trying to help my body lose weight and hurt me a little less (chronic pain and other issues are muddying my attempts). I have a course to finish (TESOL - would love to rewrite it); work to do (insane deadlines); a house with adorable kitties and a wonderful partner, to upkeep. Methinks, I need a dragon!

Written for a swap on swap-bot, and to motivate myself to move a little more on the stuff I want to do!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fish eyes in cat food

Contaminated cat food
Contaminated cat food
nifwlseirff on flickr

I found these hard, nearly opaque balls in Gingy's food bowl, after he finished dinner. The slightly spongy white covering (felt like polystyrene), scratched off to reveal a very hard ball, similar to those in silica gel packets. I fished the emptied sachet out of the bin, cut it open and found another two balls, still in the bottom of the sachet. I have no idea how many more Gingy has eaten!

The suspected contaminated 100g sachet was Snappy Tom, Fresh Catch, Choice sardines with whitemeat chicken.

Edit
Safcol have stated that these are actually fish eyes. I've asked if fish eyes are hard enough that a fingernail won't dent them, and apparently fish eyes go very hard when cooked.

For the non-squeamish people, see this post about cooking a tuna eyeball.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fear, micro to macro

Fear is something I've been running into a lot recently, both my own and from others. I'm scared that the second treatment for my adenomyosis won't work. The medication (Zoladex) has horrid side effects, and I'm struggling to cope. Other people display an incredible amount of fear when they find out this is predominantly a cancer medication. Until then, many are completely unconcerned and almost flippant. I find it amazing how much fear the C word can engender. Most people automatically assume cancer medication = chemotherapy. There are other medications, typically used in conjunction with chemo and radiotherapy.

Because I'm really not coping at all well with the treatment, I'm fear that, once again I won't complete my studies, I won't progress in Japanese, I'll lose touch with many of my friends (online, overseas, and offline) due to exhaustion, my health will worsen much further, and that I simply won't make it through the next 5 months.

Fear always increases when you feel that you have no choice.

As a learning initiative at my current workplace, we are participating in a course about Web 2.0 applications. There are so many useful ways to use and integrate such applications in a learning/teaching environment, not to mention in a corporate environment. I've found that many of these applications are not well understood, risks are not well thought out, and potential is often ignored. Much of this response seems to be based on fear and control - that data will be lost, read by the 'wrong' people, that people are too old to learn new things, it will require 'more work', or time will be wasted developing something that isn't used, etc., and companies are often left behind.

The project at work that had me out, about, and running training sessions is finishing, and I fear that there won't be much teaching in my near future. If I'm to type continuously every day, I fear my hands will be useless thanks to Raynaud's and inflammation. If I work in an open plan office every day, with the worst air-conditioning and no fresh air, it's likely I will get sinus infections (infections are worse than chronic sinusitis).

There are a lot of new opportunities for new directions at work, and I feel that everyone is afraid that if they don't got after all of them at once, and spread their few resources even thinner, they won't get anything. Managers fear that workers will take advantage of economically and environmentally sensible measures such as telecommuting, flextime, reduced hours, etc.

A fearful environment is not conducive to workplace productivity or happiness.

The world is very fearful, the economic situation, rising unemployment rate, constant threat of terrorism (and the constant reminders), climate and weather hiccoughs, resources running out, mega-illnesses, war, it goes on and on. The news programs do nothing to assuage fear, and politicians use the fear to secure votes. Then they wage war which only increases fear!

Change at all levels, engenders fear, especially if the reasons for the change are not understood. Often, even if the brain does understand, fear is still felt strongly. Emotions are such fickle things.

Unfortunately, I have no hints or funky strategies for dealing with, reducing working through fear.
If you do, please share.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Walking

Lyrebird
nifwlseirff on flickr

Attempting to maintain and not put on weight while I'm on a 6 month course of the cancer medication Zoladex, I've been trying to walk a lot more. Today's mini-hike was through Sherbrooke forest, from Grant's picnic ground back to Tecoma. There were some tough hills to carefully go down, and with great difficulty, slowly plod back up.

On the aptly named Lyrebird track, we saw (and heard) loads of wild lyrebirds, mostly unconcerned, scratching beside the track. The weather was awful, raining heavily at times, with mist regularly obscuring the track or trees on the other side of a few clearings. Tree ferns were extremely green, and sopping wet, a huge change from when they were sunburned from the hot weather in February/March.

I managed to recording a different lyrebird's song in the same location, only a few minutes after I shot the photo on the right (MP3 audio file). Lyrebirds mimic other bird sounds, and anything else like cameras, phone rings, chain saws, etc! I was surprised how large and strong they were, and that they didn't run away from the track!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Editing... and a short update

Raspberry
nifwlseirff on flickr

Looks like The migration across several blogging platforms killed the layout - stripping paragraph marks, as well as tags. Just under half of the posts have been edited, replacing paragraphs and retagging. Long, manual process. Didn't help that I kept noticing old habitual misspellings (definate, and others) everywhere, and simply had to correct them!

The recent rain has done wonders for calming the bushfires, and my nervousness. Although, I was a little worried that we were going to be flooded by a few of the crazy deluges! the garden is sodden and looking much happier. I ran out of mulch before I could complete even one of the slopes, and don't have enough newspaper to cover the top garden. Need to find a cheap source of sugar cane or pea mulch.

My last trip away for work this week, in the forseeable future. I started in Warragul, and I am finishing in Warragul. Love the symmetry. I'm going to miss the training though, as I'm going to be doing a lot more of the technical testing/writing/evaluating.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Close to home

Upwey bushfire
nifwlseirff on flickr
Monitoring a bushfire, and having to evacuate, is completely and utterly physically and emotionally exhausting.

Always on edge, the cats pick up on the stress and get upset.

 Sleep is continually disrupted, checking on websites, radio, news every few hours.

 I am glad I had the internet, therefore not having to rely on door-knockers to tell us when to evacuate, so I could leave early.

On Monday when the Upwey fire flared, I was at home, with the cats and no car. It was the first time I had spoken with my neighbour, both of us leaning over out verandahs watching the smoke.

The car made it home in time, and we watched the CFA and DSE websites for warnings, lamenting at how rarely they are updated, and listened to the CFA scanner stream, 774 Melbourne radio, and watched a few fellow twitterers. Twitter was fantastic, it was as if I had tens of eyes looking at the news and fire sites and watching the sky. We evacuated when the wind turned about 5pm, sending the fire north towards Tecoma, and smothered us in dark smoke, the CFA said our area was at risk of ember attack.

The landlord doesn't like cleaning the gutters (difficult, expensive), so there is no hope of defending, leaving early is the only option. Headed north, around the mountain and then back towards Melbourne, with a couple of very upset cats howling their protests. Ash fell on the car when we stopped for petrol in The Basin, so we continued out of the hills. Waited in an undercover carpark for a while, just in case they got it under control quickly, running phone batteries down watching the websites and listening to radio.

Ended up heading to a friends house, who wonderfully offered kitty and crash space, just in case the fire stayed uncontrolled. After the ember threat was downgraded, headed back home, after midnight, exhausted, with incredibly stressed cats. A nervous night followed, constantly checking for updates, with the fire flaring the next day on the edge closest to us (quickly under control). ABC news had some coverage of the fire (video).

Now I constantly hear sirens and the helicopter buzz, only some of those sounds are real though. This is a little too close to home, with more high fire danger days approaching.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Victoria's inferno

Victorian fires 8 Feb '09
nifwlseirff on flickr
The Victorian fires are still burning a week on, but are much more controlled. So many people have been killed, and many, many more have lost their homes, pets, friends, family. Wildlife has also suffered greatly.

These fires are the most vicious and destructive that Victoria has seen. What makes it so much worse as many seem to have been deliberately lit, or caused by poorly maintained electricity supply equipment, in a month where everything was bone dry, almost no rain for over a month, and temperatures soared (46 degrees C in Melbourne).

The firefighters were overwhelmed, entire towns have been burnt, as the high winds drove the fire at incredible speeds and awful intensity. The rebuilding process is going to be long, difficult and emotional.

One website has gathered together many links to various charities, appealing for donations to help those affected by the fires. They also list suggestions for helping other than offering donations. Zoos Victoria is also appealing for donations to help wildlife, Healesville Sanctuary is temporarily closed, their staff are working hard to help save injured wildlife.

The DSE fire map, and the list of incidents on the CFA website are useful websites to track the fires, but they are not coping very well with the load on their web servers.

The ABC, SBS, The Age and other many other Australian news providers have dedicated areas of their websites covering the bushfires and recovery efforts.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Screen space with a MacBook

Screen space
nifwlseirff on flickr
I really love my little MacBook, it's really portable (13in and light), durable (aluminium casing), and just so easy to use. Even the keyboard is easy to type on (backlit), although I find it completely wrong to hear the sound from the speakers under my hands as I type!

I was worried that switching to a laptop meant I would have to give up one of my two largish screens, but we managed to get it to work with both! Now I have three screens, with the larger, nicer monitor plugged into the external monitor port, and the second smaller monitor run through a USB video card. There are issues with some applications remaining stubbonly off screen after disconnecting the USB connection, but this is a minor annoyance.

The graphics intensive programs are always run on the non-USB run monitor, so I use that screen for programs or documents that I like to have sitting open for reference. Switching my eyes between the tiny laptop screen and the larger monitors does get difficult when I'm tired (which happens too often!)

I have an overful USB hub under the monitors, because I regularly use too many peripherals and can't be bothered switching cables! I haven't found the best way to disconnect/hibernate yet to fix both the unreachable applications, and safely deal with USB disconnection and power issues. I like to turn most things off overnight and when away from my desk, but the USB hub continues to draw power from the laptop, even if the laptop is hibernating and the power to the USB hub is off. The external drive is also slightly problematic (for Time Machine), although it seems to be very forgiving, it is noiser than I can handle overnight, so must be switched off. I'll figure out the best order soon.

The poor cats got split up, and there are regular fights over which cat pillow is better. Both are stubborn cats, and they often they end up on the same pillow! Unfortunately, I haven't found a MacOSX replacement for some of my regular applications (like my webcam software...), so the extra webcam (kitty cam) is not being used at the moment.

Completely unrelated, I didn't have notification of comments on this blog enabled! Sorry to those who have posted comments and never received a response! I do get notifications now :-)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Unwrapped

Christmas 2008 was fun, we had the regular video night people a little earlier for a barbecue. Unfortunately, I was battling a nasty cold/flu, which meant I couldn't taste very much, and didn't have much energy. Luckily I didn't pass it on!

2008 has been an up and down year. A change in job back to teaching, but still no progress on my TESOL degree (where is those things called motivation and energy?) A operation found no endometriosis, but a growth in the adenomyoma.

A wonderful trip to Japan, even with the terrible earthquake, but a little too much sickness saw my weight loss and fitness disappear by the end of the year (as yet, no weight gain though, which is good).

It also saw me return to blue and eventually short hair, and gain a green P plate (finally!). Unfortunately the garden has stalled, weeds overgrowing all gains, lots of work needed in 2009 to try to recover much. An increase in social networking and e-swapping, it's great being able to keep in touch with friends.

So, here's to a better 2009, hopefully with a little better health, less procrastination and more fun! Happy New Year all!