In Which Meg Is Helpful...
As part of my study for this semester, I've created a reference guide to searching on AO3. It can be found in google doc form at the following link:
How To Avoid Being Offended On The Internet: A Guide to Searching AO3
If you'd rather have a printable version, I have a Word docx version (417kB), a Libre Office document version (.odt, 459kB) or a PDF (420kB) available via email, and I can also see about transforming the document into other formats as needed - either drop a comment down the bottom of the page, or send me an email at megpie71 at yahoo dot com dot au.
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Five Things Make A Post 04 OCT 2018
1) ( Potentially distressing content under the fold )
2) In my other class, we're studying Foucault (a quick introduction to Foucault, discourse, and so on), and one of our readings is bringing up examples of current events (current at the time of writing/publication for the reading ... which was published in 2000) in US politics. Things like the Anita Hill case, the Clinton impeachment and so on. I was reading this yesterday and thinking "damn it, Brett Kavanaugh can't stop getting into everything". I'm hoping the rest of my readings this week won't be so... inadvertently synchronisticly appropriate, damn it.
3) One of the things I was asked to listen to for a previous weeks readings for one of my classes was "Four Chord Song" by Axis of Awesome. Which means I'm now hearing the chord structures and bass line of a lot of what I'm listening to these days, and thinking about the ways that various chord patterns are used and re-used to create music. There's the standard four chord song, the twelve-bar blues, the Romanesca (aka "that one in Pachelbel's Canon") and so on. So that gives me a bit of something to think about when I'm busy listening to music to block out the extraneous noise while I'm doing my uni readings.
4) As a side effect of stress, I am currently dealing with a complete lack of spoons for actual sensible cooking stuff. Which means I'm eating a lot of stuff which can be cooked by throwing it into the oven and reheating it. (Yes, I know this isn't healthy in the long term, but unless someone else is volunteering to come and cook for me for free, I suspect I'm going to be sticking with this for a while). One thing I have worked out is that it is cheaper for me to buy a $2.90 box of Coles plain brand frozen chicken nuggets, and re-heat them at home, than it is to get one of those "24 nuggets for $10" deals from KFC or Maccas - for $10 I can get three boxes of Coles nuggets, for a total of 66 of the little bastards, and all I have to supply is the oven to reheat them. Plus I can have my choice of dipping sauces (at present, the winner is Fountain Hot Chilli sauce) rather than being stuck with the options of watered down Sweet Chilli Sauce, or watered down Sweet and Sour Sauce or whatever. So, that can stand in for my reviews of recipes. I'll do more of them when I have the time and spoons to cook again.
5) Latest book up for the Farewell Re-read treatment is "The Ultimate Dracula" - a collection of short stories on a rather predictable theme, edited by Byron Preiss.
 In the words of Neil Innes: "I've suffered for my art; now it's your turn."
PS: I was serious about the Twitter thing. If you see me on Twitter any time before this whole thing has simmered down, remind me to get the fsck off there for the good of my blood pressure.
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Five Things Make A Post 30 SEP 2018
1) While I am thoroughly unsurprised that the Republicans are not budging on the idea of getting Brett Kavanaugh assigned to the Supreme Court, I do think it might be a good idea if parents in the USA point out to their children (particularly their sons) the behaviour he demonstrated is not appropriate behaviour in a job interview. The only way you get a job out of that sort of nonsense is if you're a highly privileged white man applying for a job which is a political appointment which has been largely sewn up from the get-go. Anyone else who tried that kind of behaviour in a job interview would have been confronted with a highly unamused "thank you for your time; we'll let you know" in the first five minutes and been slung out by security so hard they would have bounced if they'd continued.
2) I pause to note that in one of my units we had an assessment item due this week which was (in part) "write a piece of fanfiction". I believe I may have mentioned I love my degree? Certainly I'm getting more written for uni than I am for most of my current projects, so yeah... if not for uni, I might well have just stopped writing altogether.
3) The weather here in Perth is starting to warm up again, although yesterday was a return to freezling cold and rainy (although I didn't have to go out in it, which was good).
4) I've made a few changes to my daily routine, mostly along the lines of dropping a few things which weren't really amusing me (and were starting to be a chore). One of these is dropping Villagers and Heroes (MMO game, free to play, fairly nice and placid, but also rather pushy about users logging in regularly). The last update (around a week or so back) did something weird to either the executable, or the path for it in Steam, and I decided since I wasn't actually playing all that much, I'd just let it drop. So I gained the time that took back into my day, and lost something off my list of things to do. I also dropped playing Candy Crush for half an hour before I go to bed, because a few weeks back it started crashing out regularly after about five or ten minutes, becoming more "Candy Crash" instead. So what I'm doing with that half-hour is using it to work through books from my "Farewell re-read" shelves.
The "Farewell re-read" process is one where I go through books from the various boxes I have stashed in the storeroom, and start deciding whether I want to keep them, or give them to charity. A lot of the time, it's a pretty clear decision, but there's a certain quantity/quality of book where I'm not sure whether I want to keep it or not. So I give it one more re-read and decide at the end of that whether it's something I'd read again, or whether it's something where I prefer the space the book occupies rather than the book itself.
So far I'm up to my third book from the shelves ("Fast Food Nation", by Eric Schlosser - I think that one is going to be a "bye-bye" book), and I've kept one of them ("Emma" by Jane Austen).
5) I have discovered that Kettle Chips Chilli chips (with Jalapenos and Hot Chilli) are quite nice. Very hot and spicy, and very more-ish.
So, what's happening for everyone else?
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Gearing Up For Another Semester
It's that time of year again - I'm just about to head off to Semester 2 of my second year of First Year (I'm studying part time - it takes me twice as long to complete a "year" of study), and I've been running around like a chook with its head cut off trying to get everything organised again.
One of the key things I've had to do in the past week or so is basically get my poor unfortunate Uni machine (Elfadunk) back into working order. This involved re-downloading and re-installing the majority of the software I was using for university, as well as making sure an additional 32GB thumb drive was set up as the main location for everything to land, rather than Elfadunk's existing 32GB hard disk drive. (The hard disk is currently stuffed pretty much to the gills with Windows 10). Fortunately I have a couple of days up my sleeve there - I don't actually have to have her working until about Wednesday morning, when I have my first tutorial (2 lectures, one on Monday, one Tuesday, but I take a notebook to those and write my notes rather than type them).
I've also had to re-arrange my class schedule, because the tutorial I was expecting to be going to for one of my subjects (on a Wednesday afternoon) got cancelled out from under me, which meant I had to re-schedule it. The new tutorial time is at 8am on a Thursday morning, and I'm annoyed both because of the 8am start (means I have to dive out the door at about 7.30am at the latest) and because it stretches out my schedule over four days instead of three. But the other alternative was directly after the lecture on Tuesday afternoon, and would have required me to rush literally from one end of the campus to the other. No thanks, I had enough of that last semester.
But I'm pretty much set now. I've picked up the one textbook I had to buy, I've sorted out most of the software downloads I needed on Elfadunk (I'm just trying to install an anti-virus program on her at present), and I'm pretty much ready for the new semester to hit me full force. The freezer is newly-stocked with meat, the pantry is newly-stocked with a variety of short-cut meals for when I'm running low on spoons and organisation, the house is pretty much tidy, and I've replaced the laces in my sneakers. I'm good to go.
So, how has everyone else been?
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State of the Meg, 08 APR 2018
Warnings: frank discussion of depression, psychological land-mines, and coping strategy fail.
It's been an... interesting few months.
( Essay behind cut )
So, that's where I am at present. How's everyone else?
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Currently Reading: "Simulation" by Jean Beaudrillard.
I am strongly in agreement with Bucky Barnes regarding the readability and sense-making ability of post-modern French philosophes. That is all.
(Longer version: Baudrillard occasionally surfaces to breathe the cool air of making sense, then dives back into the morass of incomprehensibility again. This is very exhausting for the casual reader who is just looking for some decent fscking quotes to add to a 1200 word essay about reproduction and replication (in the semiotic/post-modern sense) in "Planet of the Ood" so she can seem as though she's got at least some philosophical and theoretical backing for her thesis statement. On the bright side, he appears to have predicted Donald Trump's presidency some thirty-three years ahead of time.)
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Study is being... problematic
I managed to get my study all done yesterday (well, except for the textbook reading for Cultural Studies, and I'm going to see about getting that done this morning). But two of the "readings" for Cultural Studies were episodes of Dr Who ("The Beast Below" and "Planet of the Ood") and I found those ... problematic for reasons which had everything to do with the medium, and very little to do with the actual content.
I'm finding I have more and more trouble with audio-visual content these days, mostly because of those audio processing problems of mine. I have particular problems with things like spliced-together versions of things (which one of the "readings" for Engaging Media was this week - spliced together bits of various Disney movies, assembled to tell a story), because with those I don't have the rhythms of speech to help guide me along and give me cues about what the next word is. I also have problems with streaming media where the audio stream gets out of synch with the video (which is practically anything which is over 10 minutes long) because I'm tending to use mouth movements as visual cues to make sense of the audio stream, to help me pick out which bits of the noise I'm hearing are the significant bits. When those fall out of synch with the audio, I start losing the ability to understand the audio stream, and it means I wind up having to work harder to make sense of things. Subtitles help. Subtitles (preferably proper closed captioning, rather than the YouTube automatic ones) give me something to focus on in the visual domain that can make sense of the information coming out of the audio stream. When there aren't subtitles, I can either a) watch the images, and strain to make sense of the dialogue; or b) close my eyes and concentrate on the audio, in the hope of being able to make sense of that without visual data to go along with it. Plus, of course, being in the situation I'm in, any other noise around me comes in at the same damn volume (or louder) than the audio stream I'm supposed to be concentrating on, and putting in earbuds or putting on headphones just means I'm not able to actually move for the duration.
End result: dealing with streaming video input is rather stressful for me these days. There's a reason I tend to stick with games where there are subtitles, where there aren't voice tracks and so on, and it's not just because I don't have the twitch reflexes for the less accessible stuff. Doing these readings at the end of a long day... well, I wind up very tired, very stressed, and I'm still tired and stressed the following morning, because my brain just hasn't had enough time to cool down.
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Unused Tutorial Question Answers
This week, I'm going to be using some answers I wrote to tutorial questions for a class (Introduction to Cultural Studies). We didn't use this work in the tutorial, so I figure I may as well recycle it. There'll probably be a few of these along the way.
So, the questions were:
* What do think about Elvis? (Note down your impressions.)
* What do you know of him? What is your first impression when recollecting him? Why do you think he is such a well-known individual?
* Consider the following song, "Elvis Presley Blues" (by Gillian Welch). How does it present a different picture to well known representations of Elvis in Vegas?
( Here's my answers, under the fold )
That's what I say.
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Starting Uni Again
Well, uni re-commences classes today. I have my two blocks of on-campus time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (two lectures and a tutorial on Tuesday; a peer mentoring appointment, a tutorial, and a social group meeting on Wednesday). I'm also expected to do about seven to ten hours per week of private study for each of my units, things like getting caught up on the readings, doing research, thinking about the course content and integrating it together, thinking about the readings in the context of the theme for the week and the content we've taken on previously and so on. Oh, and doing the assessment tasks, but those are also expected to take a bit of extra time as well.
Maybe I should point out: I'm doing two units this year from the Communication and the Literary and Cultural Studies side of my double-major degree. Which means quite a few of the "readings" I'm going to be dealing with this semester are going to be things like movies, TV shows and so on. The units are called "Engaging Media" and "Introduction to Cultural Studies", so yeah, lots of visual media expected. This is where quite a bit of the two hours of study/reading time per day is likely to go.
I'm also in a unit which is apparently going to let me get away with writing fan-fiction for one of my assessments. Which I think is a hoot - and I'm sort of rubbing it in at Steve a bit. I'm doing a double major in Creative Writing and Literary and Cultural Studies, which means I'm in an overall course of study where I'm expected to watch movies, and I can get marks (and have already received marks) for writing fanfic. It's a bit hard not to be a tad smug about it.
(On the other hand: the course coordinator for "Introduction to Cultural Studies" basically sent out an email saying "if you don't have a Netflix account, now is a very good time to get one". So I'm looking at a minimum of $10 per month to cover the cost of "readings").
I'm sort of looking forward to the semester, because I do like studying, and I enjoy the subject matter. I've been involved with online fandom for years, and recently I realised this is something which is basically keeping the cultural studies muscles in my brain flexible, so to speak - cultural studies is about pulling out the effects of cultural product on people and how it's put together and so on, and fandom covers a lot of this territory as well. So this is basically me finding a degree in my hobbies. Which I don't mind at all. Plus, of course, I've been formally studying cultural studies, on and off, since about 1989 (yup, coming up for thirty years now... I really do need to be getting some formal qualifications in this, don't I?).
I have the standard "will I get along with my tutors" thing happening (a good tutor I can work with is a godsend; one who pings off all the wrong resonances in my head tends to be a problem), and I'm sort of wondering about the lecturers as well (I think I know who one of them is, but I've never seen the other before). So it's all about discovery and so on - something I know I'm not particularly good with (side effect of autism spectrum life - change is a bit more disruptive than the usual, and I spend a lot of time and effort working to ensure I adapt to it as fast as possible). But I've done this before, and I can cope with it.
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Clearing Out Books
This week has been a slightly better week than last week. Not heaps better, mostly because the two topics being covered in my two university units are an unfortunate conjunction which means I'm wading into uncomfortable psychological waters. On the one hand, my communications unit, Culture to Cultures, is currently covering the Indigenous History of the region, which means I'm dealing with a lot of racism which appears to me to be based largely on envy, viciousness, and free-floating stupidity (and the really depressing part is it's still going even today... *sigh*). The paladin part of my brain, the part which gets annoyed at unfairness and stupidity, and wants to ride out on a crusade to Fix The World (or at least stop me being so irritated by it), is getting twitchy. On the other hand, my writing unit, Introduction to Creative Writing, is dealing with poetry - which means I'm dipping into my subconscious and discovering things even I wasn't aware of - and not all of this is pleasant.
So there's that side of things. Thanks be to the gods our tutor for Creative Writing is placing a stipulation that we have to supply three poems, and two of them have to be from highly structured formats (which changes the whole game from "the psychological exploration inherent in finding your voice" to "the intellectual puzzle of fitting your idea into the right combination of lines, stanzas, words and metre". Gods know I'm far more comfortable with the latter than the former. I mean, yeah, sure being a writer means being vulnerable, and putting your Self on display. But I'd rather at least be picking and choosing the bits of Self I'm putting on display such that "underbelly" and "key shatter points" are not among them. Call it a reaction against too many years of bullying.
But studying poetry has made me want to read my old favourites, so I'm going searching for my Norton Anthology of Poetry again. Problem is, I don't know which of the various boxes of books in the storeroom it's packed in. So I'm having to unpack boxes of books again. Got one down off the shelf last night, and discovered it wasn't the one (I wasn't expecting it to be - this was a box sealed back in 2011, two moves ago). What I did discover were the last two volumes of the Belgariad (so I'll probably be re-reading that some time soon) as well as the whole Malloreon, Belgarath the Sorceror, and Polgara the Sorceress. Fortunately for me, I've cleared off my "farewell re-read" shelves recently (got rid of everything which has been sitting there for a year waiting for me to give it the farewell re-read, on the grounds of if I haven't done it by now, I ain't a-gonna do it), so there's space for the few books from this box that I might be interested in re-reading to be unpacked onto it, and I'll see about going through them over the next twelve months or so. The rest can go to one of the various op-shops around the area, once the donation bag (which is currently full of the last lot to be donated) is emptied out again.
As a bonus, the space in the storeroom the box used to be occupying is now available for something else to move into, which means there's the option of shuffling things around in the store-room so I can find the box wherein my Norton Anthology of Poetry resides, and retrieve it!
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A Sort of Apology.
I feel I owe everyone who's read anything I've written for the past week or so a rather profound and massive apology. Unfortunately, the best you're getting at the moment is an explanation.
( Lengthy stuff under fold )
So, apologies for the rather frequent brainos I've been having over the past week. I will try to do better, but first I need to get my brain back...
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State of the Meg Update
So, I'm heading back to uni (again - hopefully this time I'll get a degree out of things). I'm studying part-time, because that way I'm not going to be overloading myself, and I'll be able to get things like, y'know, housework and such done as well as studying without pushing myself to the point of breakdown. Unfortunately for me, this week is O-week, which means I pretty much need to be on campus every day.
Yesterday was O-Day (Guild clubs & societies sign-up day). It did not go well for me.
A bit of background: I am hyper-sensitive to noise. Lots of noise overloads me, because I basically don't have a filter for "foreground noise" or "background noise" - everything I hear comes in marked "process immediately", so too much noise, and too many sources of noise, and too much volume means my brain literally gets overloaded. I am also somewhat claustrophobic in crowded situations - I prefer having something of a generous personal space bubble, and crowded areas make me anxious and panicky.
O-Day yesterday was trying to cram pretty much the entire cohort of first year students, plus a fairly substantial chunk of second and third year students, into a single 500m by 20m (widest point maybe 50m) stretch of the campus. Plus two different sound stages within about 100m of each other, dozens of club and society booths, and numerous corporate and social bodies trying to get people's attention as well. Essentially, if I ever wind up in hell, it will be like being stuck in something like this on a never-ending basis.
O-Day officially started at 12 noon. I was getting the fsck out of there by about 12.30pm, and I only managed to sign up for one of the (potentially four) clubs I was interested in. Even thinking about it now is making me feel uncomfortable. I have not felt so purposefully excluded in years. (This was actually probably the least of their accessibility fails - I wouldn't have wanted to be trying to get a wheelchair or walker through that throng without a cow-catcher bolted onto the front, TBH).
Fortunately the earliest I have to be on campus today is about 3pm, for a Mature Age study skills session, and tomorrow I only have one thing to attend (a one-off lecture for one of my courses, where I'm hoping to receive the unit outline, since it isn't available online). But I'm really not feeling welcome there or happy about being there.
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State of the Meg... the New 'Puter Edition.
So, last night, around 9pm, my computer decided to die on me. I have a 1500 word lab report due tomorrow. I have a 2000 word essay due Wednesday, and a 12 part online quiz that needs to be taken before then. So I'm sure you'll understand why I had a bit of a meltdown as a result. We're not sure precisely what died on the old 'puter - my guess is it's either the hard drive or the battery or the power systems. All I know is that when I try to boot the silly thing, it bleeps, switches itself off, switches itself back on again, the CD drive whirs, and then it fails to boot at all. Gave me an IRQL Less than or equal, but of course that vanished before I could actually note anything sensible off it too.
Anyway, Himself offered his spare laptop as a substitute. Problem is, his spare laptop hasn't actually had Windows activated on it yet - he's been sitting with it running non-stop for a couple of months without actually doing anything useful about this. Can we say "no help whatsoever" kiddies? I knew we could.I
I begged a couple of minutes on Himself's PC in order to write up some very rapid emails to a couple of unit coordinators, basically explaining that ohshit, the PC had died, but I was pretty certain I still had all the data I needed, but ummm, I might not be able to get everything in on time, so sorry.
Then this morning, I did some fast research (again, via Himself's computer) and headed down to J&B HiFi down in Rockingham, where I picked up the new computer. J&B won out over Dick Smith because the J&B website actually has all the computers organised by PRICE - so I could see they had a good solid range of options available in my price point, as well as having a lot of possibilities to choose from.
Meet Orac, folks. He's a 15" Samsung laptop, with a nice schmick "no messy fingerprints" case and all the latest and greatest bits and pieces (plus go-faster stripes on the graphics card, if what the salesdude told me is correct - I just walked in there with a list of requirements, a budget, and a bad case of "gotta get this fixed NOW!"). I lucked out - J&B were having a sale, so I got him 15% cheaper. But the name is deliberate. Orac here is small and pretty, has heaps of power under the hood, and blinkenlights galore. He's also cranky, bossy, and determined to be in charge of everything.
I spent most of the day doing the standard install and reboot polka as I found drivers and software and you name it for all my various bits and pieces again, and then I spent the afternoon getting to work on the various assessment items I had to work on. But I couldn't do anything online, because for reasons only known to Orac and Himself, while Orac could see the household network, it couldn't see the internet. So that had to wait for Himself to get home (he knows where the pitfalls are with regard to the household network; I don't. So I don't touch it).
Anyway, now I'm in the process of recreating my previous Firefox setup, and recreating about six to eight years worth of flippin' bookmarks as well (because guess what *was* on the hard drive of the old PC?). If I owe you email, it'll have to wait until I get Thunderbird sorted out.
I love my life, really I do.
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Back to Uni and Daft Things I've Done Recently
This semester, I've decided to pick up a couple of psychology units, because I'm interested in tacking social psychology (or indeed any psychology) onto the side of my computer science degree as a way of making things a bit more interesting. I figure the computer science will teach me the what and how when it comes to dealing with computers, while the psychology side I'm picking up in an effort to try and figure out why they've become the sort of mega-meta-tool they are now.
So I'm up to week two, attempting to recover from the massive kick in the hip pocket I've taken by purchasing my textbooks (two subjects, textbooks coming to the better part of $300, we're on the dole... oh well, I didn't need to eat anyway), and attempting to keep up with the reading. Thanks be to the gods I'm only studying part-time, since that means I have two days a week where I can pretty much devote my time to things like setting up a decent meal in the slow cooker, then spend the entire day scribbling down notes.
Today, however, I am functioning on approximately 5 hours sleep, if that. Why? Well, through an interesting concatenation of circumstances last night, I wound up browsing my way through my LiveJournal archive. It was interesting seeing where I'd been (I was also digging through old posts on fanficrants, because I can't for the life of me remember what I did there - it was over five years and two computers ago, and I've long since lost the email archives which record these things), but I got so distracted that before I knew it, it was 2am, and I realised I needed to get some sleep. I set the alarm to wake me for 7am, and I'm now drinking my first cup of coffee in months before I get back to writing notes from the textbook for one of my subjects for the next couple of hours before diving out the door to go to today's lecture and tutorial.
I think when I get home tonight, it's going to be a case of "dig out some frozen leftovers from the freezer" (the slow cooker is a godsend, because I can cook up large meals, serve up some of them, freeze the rest, and save myself from having to try and think about cooking on my Uni days), have dinner, and then collapse and sleep. Particularly since I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow at 7.30am (because that way I'll hopefully get in before my GP has had a chance to get massively behind in her schedule).
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Happy Birthday to Me
It be my birthday. I am now 39 years old. Yay.
So, what do I have planned for my birthday? Well, to start with I have to drive up to uni and drop in a couple of assignments - the maths one is due today, and the computing one is due tomorrow (but I spent yesterday getting them both finished because I don't feel like having to make two trips there during a study break week). Then I'm heading home, and we're expecting a friend to visit this afternoon. Tonight, Himself is going to be taking me out to dinner (Hog's Breath Cafe in Rockingham - one of those places that does food, rather than cuisine).
The computing assignment was a right whatsit, and took most of about three days to do. I'm not sure I'm going to get high marks for it, since I know there's at least one bit of the main function code which could have been a lot more efficiently done if I just knew how arrays functioned (my position is that we haven't been taught arrays yet, so I'm not even going to try and use them; I was always confused by them in Pascal, and I don't fancy trying to teach myself how to use them in C. Instead, I'll wait until we're taught them in class in Java).
Tomorrow, I'm planning to head up to my favourite clothing store and get myself some new clothes (because I've been asking people for money for clothes as a birthday present). Mostly I'm planning on getting some more t-shirts and maybe another pair of jeans since my t-shirt collection is starting to look a trifle threadbare, and I've at least one pair of jeans which are starting to look just a tad over-worn. I'm also planning on dropping in to see my parents while I'm in their district (my favourite clothing shop is just a couple of suburbs over from where they are).
Thursday and Friday I'm planning on using to collapse in a heap and recuperate. I'll probably empty out my bag I use for uni and do all the filing of notes and things. Oh, and write up a formulae sheet for the maths test we have coming up on the Friday of next week. But I suspect I'll probably devote most of my time to re-reading manga and working my way through my latest effort at completing Persona 3.
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I Love Centrelink - Part 2
More on my ongoing argument with the Australian government regarding money. I was due to be paid this week. It was a public holiday on Monday, and there's usually a bit of a quirk or two about the way payments are processed on public holidays (it's still set up for the pre-computerised days, where you actually needed staff in the building to handle the transactions). So when I couldn't see any money in my account on Monday, I didn't curse or swear. I checked my account yesterday - still no money.
Now, this is where things get interesting. Being the logical creature I am, I decided to troop off down to the local Centrelink office to find out what the heck was going on. Well, it was a busy day yesterday - day after a public holiday, plus I think the computers might have gone down for a while fairly early on, since the queues were just about out the door when we got there, and hadn't really dropped much by the time we left about an hour or so later. I found out why they hadn't paid me, though - while my Newstart had been suspended, pending the processing of my Austudy claim, the claim hadn't been processed. They booked me in for a walk-in appointment, warning me it could be up to a 2 hour wait.
It wasn't. I think I might have waited about three-quarters of an hour. So that was one good thing, anyway.
When I finally got to see the CSO (Customer Service Officer) who was dealing with my case, I discovered the reason why my claim hadn't been processed. They'd lost it.
No, really. They had lost my claim.
Now, I'd handed in this claim form in person, at the same office I was talking to about the whole issue, about three weeks previously. I had given it to one of their staff. She'd presumably put it into the internal mail, and sent it off to be processed by whoever the Austudy experts are (and wherever they are). And somewhere in all of that, the whole thing had somehow got lost.
The end result is I have to submit a whole new claim form (complete with proof of ID and enough bits and pieces of evidence to sink a small battleship) and start the whole process again. If I'm lucky, they'll backdate my payment, so I get paid for the time spent waiting for the whole shemozzle to process.
Remind me again why I wanted to go back to university. I keep forgetting.
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I Love Centrelink.
I love Centrelink. Really, I do.
But sometimes, they make it extremely, agonisingly difficult to so much as like them. Like today, where I've received a lovely little note from them saying my unemployment benefit had been suspended pending enquiries regarding my eligibility. This effectively means I have no money coming in.
Now, I am well aware that the whole business revolves around the issue of which section of Centrelink's budget the money they will (hopefully) be paying me once again will be coming out of (I'm hopefully moving from Newstart - aka "the dole" - to Austudy). But a single-sentence letter saying my payment has been suspended, when I'm on the low end of a pay fortnight, and I am literally down to my last week's rent (I have $300 in my bank account - this will cover the cost of my share of the rent for next fortnight; after that I don't have any money at all) DOES NOT HELP THINGS at this end of the equation. Now I'm in a real tizzy about whether or not I'm actually going to be paid any money at all for the next fortnight, and what the hell I'm going to do if I'm not paid anything and what the hell I'm supposed to do to obtain the next instalment of the rent.
Okay, maybe I'm over-reacting, but the absolute terror that comes from realising I have no money and I have no way of getting any in a world which is very much geared toward needing money from people in order to acknowledge their very existence is very hard to overstate. Particularly since one of the number one nightmares I have, the really deep, existential fear which drives my very being, is a fear of vanishing completely from people's notice - slipping through the cracks in reality, perhaps.
I'm stressed, and I'll admit it. If I don't wind up getting onto Austudy; if I have to re-apply for Newstart, or worse still if my eligibility for either of those benefits is cut off and I'm regarded as being ineligible for both of them (for whatever reason) then I am genuinely without resources. The global financial crisis may not have hit Australia very hard, but it's hit our particular household hard enough that we are teetering constantly on the verge of bankruptcy, and we literally have no financial resources available to us. It's a stress I don't need, coming on top of a bundle of other stresses I didn't want.
[I'm having to write this in fits and starts, because if I stop and think about things too much, I'll wind up flooding my keyboard with tears, and at this stage I can't afford a new one.]
So for the rest of the day I'm going to sit tight, and try not to think too hard about any of this. I may have to sublimate a lot of the anxiety in a frenzy of washing dishes and cleaning the house, or gaming, or find some way of doing something to take my mind off things. Tomorrow I have my orientation day at uni, and I'm going to be absent from about 8 in the morning until I finally stumble home at about 10 past 5 in the evening. Hopefully by then I'll have received a nice letter telling me whether or not I'm getting Austudy. If not, I have a meeting with the nice man from CRS on Friday (to which I am going to have to scoot directly from the second uni orientation day, missing the social activities side of things... damnit) where I'll be able to get him onto the whole mess. After all, HE was the one who recommended I go back to uni. He can damn well earn his fucking keep.
Now, if you'll all excuse me, I'm going to pour myself a cup of tea, and try to convince myself that this will all work out in the end.
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So, yesterday I attended my first O-week event for my upcoming university return - a Parents, Partners and Friends thing. I also stopped off by the student assistance van to pick up my orientation pack (complete with free temporary parking permit; complimentary lanyard and subject-area-specific timetable, and a checklist to help with the immediate stuff. Hooray.
The uni campus is a lot bigger than it was the last time I studied there (back in 1989 - 1990) - approximately double the size, most of it heading south. However, it's been designed with an eye to the weather - there's lots of trees, lots of shade, and lots of open space to sit and think in. Of course, there's also the cheerful thought that the weather it's been designed with an eye to is the warm weather (of which we get lots) rather than the rainy stuff (which is comparatively rare, and getting moreso... which is worrying). What this is likely to mean in winter is I'm going to be doing a lot of rushing around with a brolly, and huddling below verandahs.
The other thing about this campus is that at least half of it is built up a hill. The other half is built down it. This means there's multiple levels (and "ground level" is a somewhat tricky term to use when you consider that for one building alone it can mean entering on the third floor, the second floor, the main floor, or a sub-floor) and lots and lots of stairs. My knees aren't particularly fond of stairs - I have to approach them carefully, one knee complains when I'm going up, the other one complains when I'm going down. I forsee a lot of careful work trying to find ramps (which don't make my knees complain quite as loudly).
Of course, this time around, if I can't find a ramp, or an accessibility point, I'm more likely to be pointing this out to the accessibility folks. I've decided this year is my year to join the effort in bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon, and improve the situation for marginalised persons of all varieties.
In other news, check out this wonderful tribute to XKCD as performed by any number of blogging luminaries. Made me smile, made me laugh, made me weep happy tears.
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Well, that's my free time sorted for another year
I got a nice letter from the university I went and attacked dracolichs at on Monday. They said "yes, we'd love to see you here this year, here's a web address, now get cracking on your enrolment, O Week is next week!"
So I am now enrolled as a full-time student (I hope... I have a funny feeling that because I don't have to do a Foundation Unit I may just be scraping in a little below the "full-time" course load radar). But I'll go along there tomorrow (bus and train again) and then over to the nice people at Centrelink some time soon (oh crap... I've just realised, the best time to go and talk to them would be NOW! before they get mixed messages from Murdoch, Transperth and everyone else they get information from, and decide on an Alexandrine solution to the whole Gordian mess by cutting off my payments altogether! Excuse me while I grab the phone...)
And having done that, I've discovered I can't actually sign up for their customer disservices online, because I don't have (wait for it) a receipt number from Centrelink for some time in the past eight weeks. I'm on delayed lodgement through my Job Services Australia provider (my next form isn't due in until about the middle of March) and this means I generally go three months at a stretch without seeing the inside of a Centrelink office. The last time I went in there was when I went to find out why the heck the nice people from the government agency who were handling the bond assistance hadn't managed to get things set up to take the money directly from my payment (which apparently needed a different piece of paperwork from the one I had in my hot little hand, and therefore couldn't be dealt with right there and then).
And now I'm back again, stressed out, tired out, shopped out, and about ready to strangle things. And I still have to head back to the Centrelink office tomorrow to actually get the bloody stuff submitted and handed in (because although I can *print out* the form from their online page, I can't actually submit it online (or at least, that's how I'm reading things - and since just *finding* the bloody form took about six go-rounds of their website, because I still had my mind in dealing with the university mode, where they go for "sensible and logical" as a default, rather than bureaucracy, where the default is "bloody-minded to the extreme", I'm not going to push my luck). My only worry is that there's apparently rules which say the government is only going to support me for so many years of study (and this is equivalent to the length of the course plus one semester). Now, over the past twenty-two years, since I finished high school, I've spent at least eight of these engaged in either full-time or part-time study. Of those eight years, Centrelink was supporting me for an absolute maximum of four (and three of those four were when I was working for them, so I strongly doubt they count!). But I am in full "dealing with a government department" paranoia mode at present. So I'm going to head down there tomorrow, tidied up and ready to face the worst they can throw at me.
Meanwhile, since the paranoia module in my brain is kicking out in full throttle at the moment, I'm currently panicking that I'll bomb out in the first semester, crashing and burning and failing horrendously. Ah, the joys of going back to uni.
Wish me luck, folks.
 Foundation Units are a Murdoch University speciality for students who have never been to university before - basically "uni in a box 101" for kids who are just learning how to put things together. Since this will be my fourth attempt at an undergraduate degree they figure I already know what I'm doing with regard to things like writing essays, attending lectures, and showing up for tutorials.
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