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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