What I've been up to lately
So, if you've seen my previous entry, you will have seen it mentions carpal tunnel syndrome. Here's the basics.
Back at the end of March, just before the country went full lockdown and everything went crazy, I noticed when I was working away at work, my left hand was feeling a bit ... burny. Like, if you've ever put Deep Heat or Icy-Hot or something mentholated like that onto skin where there's no underlying muscle problems, that's what it felt like. First time I felt it, I wrote it off as minor fuss and bother. But then it persisted. So I called my GP, who sent me off to get ultrasound scans of my wrists, on the suspicion it was carpal tunnel syndrome.
Well, the scans came back normal. Mostly normal, anyway - I have bifurcated medial nerves on both hands (or in other words, instead of having one nerve laying alongside the vein in the carpal tunnel, the nerve is split in two, and lies on either side of the vein) but this is apparently a pretty normal human variation, nothing to be concerned about. I switched to an ergonomic keyboard, which made it easier to type for longer before the burny feeling came back, and carried on.
Then last Tuesday, I overdid things, and wound up with my hands actually hurting me, and with a complete lack of grip strength on my left side (couldn't hold a tablet PC for longer than about a half a minute before my strength gave out). I had a minor breakdown (oh gods, crippled for life!!!!1!) and called my GP back. He referred me to an OT who is a hand / arm specialist, and I saw her today. Described all my symptoms, she did a bit of an exam, and the diagnosis is an overuse injury (caused by the fact I type pretty constantly for work; my main hobby is creative writing which I also type for; and then I socialise online by... typing some more). So I have to rest things.
I've been given a splint, and I have to rest my hands, massage the hand and forearm on a daily basis, and take breaks from typing every hour. Heat pack on the hand and forearm if I start feeling pain / discomfort. Come back in two weeks for a follow-up appointment.
So, this is why I have largely been maintaining radio silence for most of the past month and a half. And will be continuing to do so for the next however long, until either my hands heal up, or I wind up getting speech-to-text software.
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What I Learned About Working From Home from 10 Years on the Dole...
Now, I'm going to be the first person to say working at home is not the same thing as being stuck on the dole. For one thing, working from home definitely pays better, trust me on this (even with the supplements, working from home still pays much better than being on the dole), and this opens up a lot of options which weren't available for me when I was on Newstart. But there are a lot of similarities between being locked down to the one place by a COVID-19 lock down, and being locked down to one place by the sheer fact I can't afford to go anywhere or buy anything. So here's some of the tips I'm finding I'm recycling now I'm back in my bedroom a lot.
1) You have to have a routine
This is even more the case for when you don't have the distraction of a job than if you do - you need to have a routine, and a number of things that need doing, and you need to be able to deal with those things during the course of a day in order to give yourself a sense of having achieved things. This is where "to do" and "have done" lists come into their own - they're great for creating that sense of achievement, which is something a lot of us need in order to maintain our mental health.
2) You can't just stay in one place all day
Whether it's on the couch in front of the TV, in front of the computer, curled up with a good book, or whatever - you need to get up, you need to move around, you need to do something that isn't just sitting in the one place. So take breaks, by which I mean things like "set an alarm to get yourself up off your backside and walk around the house", or "get up and walk to the end of the street and back again" or something like that.
(My plan for the next few weeks is I'm gradually emptying out various planters, moving them to the front garden - near my desk space - and I'm going to plant them all up with flowers, bulbs and herbs so I have something to fuss over and look at while I'm locked down...)
If all else fails, keep yourself decently hydrated - if you're drinking lots of water, eventually plain old bladder pressure is going to make you need to get up and move. At least fifty percent of my tea habit came about as a way of making sure I was getting up and moving away from the computer during the day (even if it was just to the toilet and back again).
3) Contact with other people is important
I say this as an introvert's introvert who has low social needs to begin with - humans need contact with other people in order to remind ourselves we're human. The good thing about this is it doesn't have to necessarily be in person - I find online chat works nicely for me (and once I've weeded my Twitter feed, I'm going to settle down and enjoy that rather thoroughly). But you need to be interacting with other human beings in some way, shape or form. Remember, we're descended from social apes (like chimpanzees) rather than solitary ones (like orang-utans).
4) Dress up and take pride in your appearance
No, really. This one helps a lot - maintaining a bit of pride in your appearance, wearing good quality clothes (yes, dress for comfort, but that doesn't have to mean ratty old trackie-daks, grotty t-shirts, or pyjamas all day), doing your hair, putting on makeup if you wear it regularly and so on. It goes in with "you have to have a routine" - having part of that routine involve making sure you look presentable (however you define the term) really does help with making you feel less isolated and more capable of connecting with people.
5) Make sure your surroundings are comfortable and comforting
If you're sitting in your bedroom a lot, make the bed. If you're in the kitchen, wash up the dishes and put them away. If you're in the lounge room, do a bit of a tidy. Tidy your desk or desk-like-area so you're able to work there. Make sure it's possible to stay reasonably warm (in winter) and reasonably cool (in summer) without needing to take heroic measures (like bundling up as though you're going to the Antarctic, or stripping to the skin). If you can't feel comfortable in your space, you're going to resent having to remain there, and you're likely to wind up feeling put-upon and hard-done-by. Neither of which feelings are particularly conducive to productivity or getting through things easily. This is something we don't really have much choice in, so we may as well treat ourselves kindly while it's happening.
6) Don't forget to eat and drink
Again, this goes with "you need to move". Try not to eat your meals in front of the computer - for one thing, it's not good for you; for another, it's not that good for the computer, either. Make your lunch into a meal away from your desk or desk-like-area - eat it outside if the weather's fine, but at least pick up and move away from your computer chair in order to eat lunch. Make your lunch a bit of an event - pick a favourite food or a comfort food, or just fancy things up a bit. Now is probably not the best time to start a new diet... but it is a pretty good time to try a few things you haven't tried before.
7) Get out and see some nature each day.
Go for a walk in the street; if you have a garden, take a walk around that. Encourage the local wildlife to hang around - a good birdbath can be made from a ceramic plant saucer (about 2cm deep, and about the same in width on the side, so they have somewhere to put their feet), and there are lots of birds which will take advantage of it to splash around and fuss at each other, and a lot of enjoyment can be gained from bird watching (this probably isn't a good idea if you have cats - not unless you can put the birdbath somewhere the cats can't get at it). Pets are great - even pets you borrow from the neighbours (our neighbour's cat considers us to be part of its regular staff, and will show up on a regular basis for pets and scritches, as well as considering our backyard as part of its tiger territory). Failing that, house-plants, pot plants on a balcony, and so on - anything will do, no matter how big or small. Combine it with your walk - have a look at the gardens of your neighbours (and if you really like what someone's doing with their garden, why not leave them a note to say so - combine socialising-at-a-distance with getting your daily dose of nature).
8) Remember, this too shall pass.
This period of lock down and quarantine will eventually come to an end (either they'll figure out that vaccine they're working on; or we'll develop a certain level of herd immunity; or the virus will just burn itself out; or we'll all decide there are different options in the eternal toss-up between safety and convenience). We won't be stuck as isolated, atomised individuals forever. In the wider scheme of things, human cultures of all kinds have survived multiple examples of pandemics and plagues (Western culture has survived a lot of them, but the one which sticks with me at the moment is the Black Plague of the 1400s - people back then thought the world was ending, too) - the situation we're in at present isn't actually an unprecedented one; it's just one we're unaccustomed to. The last time humans had to really worry about this sort of thing was back in the 1940s, and for those of us who post-date polio, it's not something we've had to deal with in our lifetime. But that doesn't mean we can't survive it. Remember, we're all descendants of the people who survived epidemics before us. We can get through this.
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Down with the Lurgi
I was a fool last week. We had some really frantic stuff happening on Friday, and when I went home, I thought "thank gods that's over".
I had forgotten "thank gods that's over" is the phrase my immune system basically connects with "I have finished all my major assessment, the break has started, and I don't have to do anything for at least a week, so there's plenty of time to be sick". So guess what happened?
( Description of symptoms below - skip if you don't like mucous )
I'm busy trying to keep ahead of things by keeping up lots of warm to hot fluids (tea, hot water, lemon and honey, etc) to try and stop the throat-stripping cough, and mainlining Fisherman's Friend cough lollies (because they're the nearest thing I've found to a shot of Drano for the sinuses). I'm also trying to make sure my middle ears drain at night by laying with the affected ear up (of course, there's only so long I can do this... then I have to switch over to the other side, drat it). Plus I am doing my regular scheduled Bit for the profits of whoever owns the Kleenex brand this week. My voice is currently in "phone sex worker" mode, because I'm speaking with a chest voice (it is far too uncomfortable for things to resonate anywhere north of my lower jaw). Oh, and I'm very glad I bought a new tube of lip balm a few weeks back, because I just know my lips are going to wind up chapped in no time flat.
Do I actually have the time off uni and work to be sick? Do I what?? I had a tutorial presentation I had to give on Monday for uni (first cab off the rank for the semester - I figure I'm either setting a high standard or a low one for everyone else, and I'll find out which it was at the end of the semester) which required me to talk for about ten minutes (with a scratchy voice and next-to-no functioning brain). Plus work has heaps of stuff for me to be doing, because we've just switched a batch of systems over and what this means is the people who are doing my job (myself and one other guy) are manually doing what a bunch of other people used to do, and discovering all the possible ways things can go wrong. (I did some preliminary work on the subject last week - although it was mainly in the form of "drawing up a bingo card", because playing stuff-up bingo is a lot tidier than murdering people. Can you tell I used to work tech support?).
At least today everyone else in the office was working from home, so I could basically treat the office like my own personal lazar house, turn up the heating, and just settle down to baking whichever blasted virus is responsible for this lurgi out of my system.
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What I'm Reading Lately - W/E 28 DEC 2018
(I'm going to be trying to make this a regular Thing. Wish me luck with it. Basically, it's going to be a summary of what I'm reading, in which formats, for which purposes, and so on. Some brief comments about each thing, but not a huge discussion unless it's really something which has set my head on fire.
Two important things to note about my reading habits: 1) I tend to read a lot; 2) I tend to re-read things a lot. This is the intersection of a strong hobby interest in reading, and a low income).
(A quick explanation: the "farewell-re-read" shelf on my bookshelves is the one where I put all the books I'm not sure whether I want to keep or discard, so I give them a final re-read and decide from there. Anything on the farewell re-read shelf is an actual print book).
The Weather Makers, Tim Flannery (2005). Tim Flannery on climate change, and why it matters, and why we have to take action on it urgently. Note the publication date.
Different Similarities by Aurya - Dissidia NT fic, involving a discussion between Lightning and Noctis about how oddly similar their worlds and stories are.
Endlessly by aryasnark - A collection of short pieces starring Squall Leonhart and Cloud Strife (therefore ranging in fandom from Kingdom Hearts, through FFVII, FFVIII, and Dissidia). A work in progress. One I keep coming back to and re-reading, as well as enjoying the new additions.
Exodus by MoiDuh - Dissidia 12 fic, where Cloud disappears from Gaia in the aftermath of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. A work in progress.
Fluffy Humorous How they Get Together Just Read It Okay? There will be SMUT by mdaoust245 - FFVII Sephiroth/Cloud fic. Work in progress. Cloud is bullied into asking Sephiroth out for a date.
Good Friends and Good Company by Megane - Dissidia fic. Cloud and Tidus chilling in Besaid.
once more by brewpubs - Kingdom Hearts. An interesting take on the tie between Sephiroth and Cloud in KH canon.
Pretty Kitty by wickedorin - FFVII Zack/Sephiroth pet play. Smutfic.
Sunflowers by XpaperplaneX - FFVII pre-canon fix-it. Work in progress (completed, but being posted gradually). A young Sephiroth is sent to a certain mountain village for a summer as a consequence of disobeying orders. I'm a sucker for a good "Sephiroth gets a different childhood" fix-it, so I'd definitely recommend this one to other people who are fans of the same thing.
The Forest of Winters Past by dentedsky - Dissidia NT AU - Zack Fair lands up in the world of Dissidia NT. Part of the Fictober 2018 collection on AO3.
3, 2, 5? by Tellie_Skye - FFVII High school AU. Work in progress. Writer will probably be good when they get a bit more practice under their belt. As it stands, this reads as though English isn't their first language.
A Little Bird Told Me by chibikaie - Kingdom Hearts, possibly a college AU. Work in progress. Interesting enough that I've subscribed to it to keep up with updates.
A prince just wants good ol’ lovin’ by SunFallDown - FFVII, fairy tale AU. Zack/Cloud. This one is a variation on Cinderella, or at least, it has elements thereof.
All That I’ve got by Vincent_Valentine - FFVII/Kingdom Hearts High School AU. Work in progress. Zack/Cloud. Not particularly enthralling, I'm afraid.
Final Fantasy: Cross Dimensions by SIR_QUACK_AloT - FFVII/FFVIII crossover, Squall falls into the world of FFVII post-OG canon. Work in progress. I got thrown out of this one hard by the author referring to the antagonist of FFVIII as "Ultimania" (she's Ultimecia) and didn't bother to read past that.
From our Family to Yours by Madame_Xela - Kingdom Hearts AU, Squall/Cloud, domestic fluff. Work in progress. Seasonal snapshots of a family where Leon and Cloud have kids and are married to each other.
Love Twice by 0roro_Munr0e - FFVII: Crisis Core mundane world AU. Working toward the OT5 (SOLDIER fivesome). Work in progress. I was catching up on chapters 14 - 16. Interesting story, but the author occasionally has frustrating errors in tense and word choice.
Polarity by Tobiroth - FFVII Crisis Core A/B/O Dynamics AU. Work in progress. Tobiroth is a good author who I like to re-read, but they have a problem with starting stories and not finishing them. There are a LOT Of WIPs in their profile on AO3. I'd still strongly recommend what they write, but be aware of this...
Kinda Toast by joudama - FFXV, Gladio/Prompto fluff. Work in progress. Look, I'm always going to recommend anything by joudama in any of the fandoms we share (and probably I'd recommend her in the ones we don't as well), but this one is gorgeous just for the sheer quality of the way she's captured Prompto's voice.
A Christmas Cracker by Ardwynna - FFVII, part of the 2018 Gaia Santa collection on AO3. My main comment on this one is that if you don't like puns, turn away now, because some bits of this are Punful.
No Complaints by Asreoninfusion FFVII/Venom fusion. Smutfic. Part of the 2018 Gaia Santa collection on AO3. Asreoninfusion is going to be one of those authors I'm going to recommend and re-read repeatedly, because her FF7 smutfic is very good indeed. This is no exception.
Time Forever Favours the Young by Gotham’s_Only_Wolf - FFVII, post-canon, part of the 2018 Gaia Santa collection on AO3. Gotham's_Only_Wolf is another author I'll always recommend. This one is a good post-canon fix-it in many ways.
Mistaken Mistlefoe by Gotham’s_Only_Wolf - FFVII. Part of the 2018 Gaia Santa collection on AO3. One where the idea of inter-cultural communication has presumably never been considered by the management of the Shinra Electric Power Company or the leadership of its army.
This End Up by raisedbymoogles - Transformers/Kingdom Hearts crossover fic. Look, it has Galvatron, moogles and Mognet in it, and it made me laugh out loud.
Gift of the Bots by scifigrl47 - MCU, part of scifigrl47''s "Tales of the Bots" series. DJ needs to earn money to cover the cost of Christmas presents.
A Kind of Magic by XpaperplaneX - FFVII, part of XpaperplaneX's Tentacle 'Verse series. Cloud/Sephiroth. Nice to see the old fandom standbys making a reappearance, and this is one which hasn't been about for a few years now. XpaperplaneX is a good writer, another of the ones I'll always recommend to others.
So, does anyone else have anything they'd like to recommend, or share?
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Cos I'm Working for the Dole, Working for the Do-hole...
As a dole-bludging layabout, perennial leaner who is failing/refusing to "have a go", and parasitical drainer of the Australian taxpayer, the time has come once again for me to perform public penance for the sin of being unemployed and (apparently) unemployable. I'm working for the dole again.
This time around, I'm cooking for the homeless. I did my first day of it on Thursday. I'm working in a commercial kitchen space for a charity group; the charity group are hiring the kitchen space from the Uniting Church, and there's apparently supposed to be about twenty-five of us in the group. On Thursday there were three of us, and we were still having to dodge each other a lot of the time - by the time they get up to twenty-five people into this rather small and not-air-conditioned space, in the middle of the Australian summer... well, let's just say it's going to be standing room only, and pass things from hand to hand, and we'd better be allowed to keep water bottles on hand so we don't all keel over from heat exhaustion.
On Thursday we basically did baking (Carrot Cake muffins from one person; ANZAC biscuits from me; and the bloke in the group was doing a spaghetti sauce, I think) which was frozen for future use, and we took inventory of what we had for cooking with. Everything is donated, which means we have some interesting oversupplies, and some interesting little blank spots. For example, the ANZAC biscuits were made without coconut, because we didn't have any - instead, we gave 'em extra rolled oats. The icing for the cupcakes was supposed to have cream cheese in, but because they didn't have any of that, the person making them threw in extra butter. It's an exercise in figuring out what can and what can't be done with what we have. Lots of substitutions. The take-away lesson I'm getting from this is if I'm going to donate to a service like this, I'm going to be giving money rather than goods (or at least looking for a shopping list or similar from them).
We had disposable plastic aprons to be wearing, which after about ten minutes tended to start sticking to my chest (perils of v-necked t-shirts in such a situation) from the amount of perspiration I was pouring out. I've dug out the two cloth aprons I have from home, and I'll be using those in future. At least with a cotton apron, I know it's not going to stick to me.
One of the little facets of this job that I wasn't strictly prepared for was it's all standing work. Now, the last time I had to stand for long periods as part of doing my job was back when I was working checkouts, in August 1996. After a twenty-two year break, my feet aren't happy with the whole business, and oh boy did they let me know about it. Fortunately, I remember the trick for dealing with sore feet from back in my checkout days - about ten to fifteen minutes of laying down with my feet higher than my head, which allows things to drain a bit, and drastically reduces the throbbiness of things. Also, lace shoes loosely, because tightly laced shoes cut off circulation toward the end of the day.
Another thing I've learned: apply sunscreen before leaving the building on the way home. Due to fun and games down on Albany Highway with pipes and things (the Water board are having so much fun down there) the buses aren't running their usual routes to and from town. Which means while I have about a 300m walk to the bus stop in the morning (8.30am start, which means I'm leaving home around 7.30am in order to get there on time in the morning), on the way home at night, I have something like a four block walk back from Albany Highway to where I'm living on the other side of Berwick Street (or it's a four block walk back down Berwick Street from Balmoral Street). I didn't realise this on Thursday, and got a little sunburned (hottest day in months, and we were sent home early due to lack of work to do).
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I Aten't Dead...
... I'm just up to my ears in my final piece of assessment for this semester. Which is a 2000 word research project, and I've been busy doing all the reading in order to be able to write a passable literature review, as well as catching up on about two months worth of housework (the last time I seriously cleaned the house was back when we had our inspection in September - I am now getting caught up on long-overdue floor sweeping and mopping and bench cleaning and such. This happens every semester - I get so distracted by getting head-down bum-up in study and classes that I don't have the spare spoons for housework).
1) Yay to the voters in the USA for steering us away from the worst timeline.
2) Boo to the Liberal party for Scott Morrison and the amazing mystery parliamentary revival tour bus. But a small yay for managing to produce an interview which inadvertently sounds like it was written by the late John Clarke.
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Sorry This Is So Delayed...
Let's just say things have been a bit chaotic over here at Chez Meg, and leave it at that. Instead, I give you the five things I have learned this week that I didn't previously know:
1) 26 hours worth of study commitments counts as sufficient to serve as a 25 hour work-for-the-dole commitment (well, I knew that one previously, but I hadn't been certain whether it was the case under the current system. After all, there's a whole bunch of new ministers in place, and you can never tell whether they're going to try and prove how tough they are by kicking the unemployed harder or not).
2) It costs almost as much to have two pairs of jeans altered so they're not dragging in the dirt when I wear them as it did to buy them in the first place ($47.80 vs $50).
3) I have lost my ability to view medical and surgical procedures on human beings without getting squicked.
4) A Brekky Hero Roll costs 5c more at the Hungry Jacks in Gosnells than it does at the Hungry Jacks in Ascot.
5) The Armadale-Kelmscott Memorial Hospital has free parking for 4 hours at a stretch, which is very useful if you have to take someone into Emergency there for a non-urgent procedure.
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Five Things Make A Post 09 SEP 2018
1) Today has been a very pleasant sunny interlude in the middle of two rather damp and soggy weeks. I've even managed to get the last of the laundry from last week dried. Which is good, because I'm going to need the rack again tomorrow, when it's due to rain again (100% chance of showers, according to the Bureau).
2) I was also able to use today's warmer, drier weather as an excuse to air out the house, which had been starting to get just a tad musty as a result of about three months straight of having all the doors and windows as shut as they can manage to try and keep the weather outside.
3) Still keeping up with my readings and such for university. This week's endeavour is going to be writing a 1000 word essay comparing two articles in terms of critique and evaluation for one of my units (due Friday midnight). The trick there, I think, will be writing down everything I can come up with, and then editing this down to 1000 words. Basically, it's four paragraphs. If that (surely they could have given us a bit more word count?).
4) I realise I am definitely betraying my mature-age-student-ness in the above point. I am also not ashamed.
5) I don't have anything to fit here.
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I Could Not Brain This Past Week
I had teh dumb. I could not brain. Brain thinky-things were Too Hard. Even more so than normal, in fact. This has not been a help with uni this past week.
I think I've figured out where the problem lay, however. I finally decided to test out a hypothesis last night, and took an iron supplement, after spending all of yesterday feeling like a wrung-out dishcloth. Lo and behold, this morning I am feeling much better, with a bit more energy and a lot more ability to focus. So, problem was likely to have been low-level anaemia, and I'll keep on taking an iron supplement each night for a few days to get the red cell count up.
Of course, the fun thing about all of this is it's preventable through diet... provided I have enough energy to be cooking regular meals in the first place. Which I didn't have, because I was a bit anaemic, so I didn't cook, which meant I didn't eat a very balanced diet, which meant the anaemia didn't get fixed up, which meant I was tired, which meant I didn't cook, which meant we went through the whole cycle again and again and again.
This week coming up is a non-teaching week (thank gods) so I should technically be able to get caught up on my readings and get the majority of work done on an essay which is due in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I've also received notice we're getting a rental inspection in the first week of September, which means my "copious free time" is probably going to need to go toward getting the house back into reasonable condition for that (I've been skiving off on housework for most of the past few weeks, because study commitments).
 It had all the standard student food groups: cheap stuff, stuff which could be reheated in the oven, stuff which could be reheated in the microwave, sugary stuff, and caffeine.
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Five Things Make a Post 15 JUL 2018
( Post below the fold )
How's things for everyone else?
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Well, I'm back again...
*Sits up, cracks back*
I have finished all my assessment pieces for university, I don't have any exams (advice to potential students: it's very hard to examine Cultural Studies in a way which can prove you've taken the concepts on board; enjoy the lack of exams, but be prepared for lots of essay work) and I currently have a corner of my brain turning back somersaults in at the door and screaming "I'm FreEEEEEEEE!!!" at me. Semester officially ends on 22 June, which is the earliest possible date I'm going to be stripping all the work off my university laptop, Elfadunk.
Elfadunk desperately needs the latest Windows updates from about April last year (that being when I started getting the messages about "can you find 8GB of spare space on this machine so we can download things pleasethankyou"). Elfadunk has a 32GB hard drive, which is currently just about full to capacity with the combination of Windows 10 (most of the hard drive), the MS Office Suite (free download on the university account), EndNote (ditto), Avast antivirus and its various component pieces, Chrome browser, and all the other various accoutrements of university study, the least part of which is my actual data that I've put there and the various PDFs of readings and articles I've downloaded to work from. So all of those have to get stripped off; then I get to start carefully playing computational Jenga with Windows 10 in order to clear 6 - 8 GB of space in which to download and install the latest updates. Once that's done I get to find whether any of the other stuff will fit back on there again, or whether I'm going to be putting all my data and software onto a prosthetic thumb drive over the next few semesters. (In which case it's another visit to Officeworks in the offing to buy another 32GB thumb drive for all of that - I have one already, but it's acting as the storage vault for all my music so I can listen to music while taking notes on various things at uni).
So there's that needs doing, as well as all the housework I've been neglecting for the last three months (we have an inspection due in either June or July, I'm not quite sure which). Plus I've been documenting the various gaps in my knowledge I'm discovering as I read through various articles, textbooks and so on, so I can use my Copious Free Time to fill those. I now have Copious Free Time, so I'm going to try and keep up the whole business of at least two hours a day of actual study time by using that time to fill in various gaps. This includes reading up on the words of various cultural theorists, because I'm a masochist, and I feel the need to know these things myself rather than reading someone else's interpretation of what they said.
Fun little anecdote from writing the last essay for Cultural Studies: I was analysing two texts - "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood, and "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy. In the course of three essays about "The God of Small Things", I saw the novel described as a Gothic horror story, a treatise on the existing problems in post-colonial theorising, and a Marxist-influenced caution against the horrors of commodity fetishism in a capitalist system. The idea of "the death of the author" is alive and well, and working in a variety of literary and cultural studies journals, where it's being used as an excuse for making any book ride your particular theoretical hobby-horse. (The whole thing made me laugh, because what I wound up thinking was "I wonder how Arundhati Roy feels about this?").
Also, does anyone know whether there's been any analysis of "The Handmaid's Tale" from the perspective of kink theory? I'd be interested in reading it if there were.
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State of the Meg Update
Well, this is going to be this week's post, because I'm up to my ears in assignments for uni (two 1500 word essays due in about two weeks, and while one of them I've pretty much finished the research and reading for, the other I've not even started) as well as all the standard stuff like turning up for classes and so on.
So, nothing essay-ish from me this week, and probably nothing next week either. Depends on whether I have the spare brain to write with. I did have a plotbunny bite on Friday, but I had to put it to one side, so we'll see whether it turns out to have more than a vague idea for something later.
At present my plans mainly consist of "get through this semester; spend time over the break reading up on cultural studies theories and theorists; catch up on the housework at some stage; pray for rain".
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Update - 04 NOV 2017
Okay, state of the Meg. (under the cut, because there's a lot of teal deer in there).
( See below )
So anyway, I aten't dead, I'm finally finished (pretty much) with uni for the year, and if anyone in the Perth metro area wants to visit (or have me visit them), drop me a line and let me know!
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Why Do I Do This To Myself?
I've just finished doing my weekly job search. Which is depressing and sucks rocks through a straw.
It is also about 60% more complicated than it actually has to be, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I grew up in a dysfunctional family, which means I still (even after twenty years safely away from the lot of 'em) feel the ingrained need to justify my every action, in order to ensure I don't wind up getting squashed by people and/or institutions which have power over me. (If I do not Document Everything and Justify Everything, I will inevitably wind up In The Wrong. Yes, I know this is fscked up. You don't need to tell me). In terms of job search, this translates to me carefully noting down the following:
* What my search terms were on Seek.com.au each week.
* How many jobs were on offer
* Relevant details from each of those job ads, complete with highlighting various things, such as hours of work offered, skills/experience/education required, due dates for applications, conditions and so forth.
* Which jobs I applied for and with which employers
* How I applied for them.
Okay, so far, so neurotic. Reasonable justification of choices achieved. Now this is the rest of what I do:
* Keep another record of every single job offered by Employer, Job description and date.
* Keep track of whether I received any response to the job applications I sent out, and what that response was.
* Keep statistics on the proportion of my job applications I receive responses to.
* Collate and keep statistics on the amount and type of experience employers are asking for.
* Collate and keep statistics on the types of qualifications, clearances, and personal qualities employers are asking for.
* Collate and keep statistics on whether the work being offered is permanent or temporary, and how many hours are being offered.
* Collate and keep statistics on the kinds of software employers are asking for experience with.
Part of the reason I do all of this is because my brain says "maybe there's some patterns in here we could pull out if we just had the stats; maybe if we just assembled enough information we could craft the Perfect Application and get ourselves a job!". It also says "ooh, numbers cool!" and "I like playing with data", not to mention "hey, let's hyper-focus on this useless aspect of things in order to try to convince ourselves all this pointless effort could maybe, possibly, have a purpose other than wasting our time in futile hoop-jumping".
Which is why looking for work, for me, occupies the better part of about four to five hours every Sunday. I keep records of all of this. They are updated religiously. Who knows? Maybe someday, someone will be demanding that I justify my choices in the same old way my family used to (and the way my bully of a boss in the agency responsible for administering our social security system here in Australia used to...) and I will be able to pull out five or more years of records explaining each and every single damn choice I've made all the way along my job search history, and why I made those choices.
In the mean time, I'm starting to build up a pretty good picture of what employers in Perth, Western Australia are looking for with regards to part-time administrative and office support workers. (Email me if you want the full autism-spectrum inspired brain dump).
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Update 03 OCT 2017
So I've realised I'm in the middle of a rather nasty anhedonic episode, which means I'm not particularly feeling any motivation to do anything, which means I'm not doing things unless I absolutely have to at present, because they're things I've built so solidly into my daily routines that I feel worse if I don't do them than if I do.
( Teal deer below the fold )
So yeah. Things aren't as good as they could be. But they're better than they would have been twenty years ago, so I suppose that's something...
Now, if you'll all excuse me, I'll go back to neg-stimming on Tumblr, because apparently this is my brain's preferred form of self-immolation this week.
 I have a two hour exclusion period on my medication for my thyroid, which means for two hours after I've taken it (and for two hours before, technically) I'm not allowed to have dairy products, calcium supplements, iron supplements or anything else which might bind to the thyroxine receptors.
 The end of this period is the end of the medication exclusion period, when I can technically fit in breakfast if I'm able to contemplate the idea of food.
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Update 25 SEP 2017 - Five things make a post.
1) It's a non-teaching week this week, which means my alarm is turned most definitely off and I am catching up on sleep. It's also cold and wet and rainy, to the point where when I was starting to write up my journal this morning I inadvertently started entering the month as "June".
2) I have managed to complete the AV presentation which was driving me bats, and now I have to concentrate on getting my poetry portfolio done. Which means I have to settle down and actually get into a poetry mindspace, which is somewhat akin to having an unstructured dose of therapy. Poetry involves rummaging around in the subconscious, and the problem with doing this for me is I keep finding things in there I don't remember putting there. Like discovering the reason I'm so keen on Final Fantasy VII as a fandom is because I actually empathise strongly with Cloud Strife's memory problems (because they're rather akin to the ones I have as a result of chronic depression).
3) I've done my vote in the Marriage Equality survey, and I think Steve dropped both of them off in the post-box on Friday. I voted "yes", of course, because quite frankly I cannot for the life of me see how allowing people who aren't heterosexual to marry is going to "damage marriage". The arguments of the "No" campaign appear to be mainly based around "think of the children" (I don't have any myself, and I'm thinking of the non-heterosexual and non-gender-binary children who might want to get married when they grow up); "it's against our religion" (well, nobody's saying you have to go out and get married to anyone); "marriage is about having children" (oh, does that mean my infertile friend is damaging the institution of marriage? How about my mother, who's past the age of reproduction and still married to my father?) and so on. None of their arguments really appear to be based on anything sensible, because let's face it, we can't point to a sensible argument against extending marriage to non-heterosexual people.
(Also, on the whole "freeze peach" side of things: if anyone who is busy screaming about how it's going to result in priests being forced to perform gay weddings against their wills and against religious canon can actually point to a single case of this having occurred anywhere in the world where non-heterosexual marriage is already permitted, then I'll start paying attention to this particular argument. But until then... it's a stupid argument).
4) I have a bunch of seedlings from my mother that I picked up on Saturday - Mum buys a bunch of seedlings every year to plant out in her vegetable garden, but the vege patch isn't really all that big, so she's usually got some over. So now she's giving them to me, and I'm going to be planting them out in my vegetable garden space. If the rain ever lets up for long enough for me to get it done. I will also be surrounding them with enough snail bait to hopefully keep the troops of snails we currently have decimating everything in the garden well away for a while.
5) We have received an invitation to come over for dinner tonight from my parents. My brother, in a fit of enthusiasm (and in the grip of a high-protein diet) decided since today is a public holiday (and he thus doesn't have to go in to work) he was going to barbecue an entire beef brisket. So he went and bought himself what looks like half a cow - seriously, the thing occupied about half the width of my parents' chest freezer. So they've invited myself and Steve over to help consume the wretched thing. I may wind up being given some leftovers to take home with me, which means cottage pie for dinner some time this week.
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Update - 18 SEP 2017
There's lots of things I could be talking about here. I'm going to talk about the plants I've purchased for the garden.
( Gardening under the fold )
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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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Weekly Update 29 JUL 2017
Gearing up for the start of classes next week, which means this week I've been practicing getting up at 5am (mostly to find out whether I am going to be able to get up at 5am, or whether I'm going to have to shift things even earlier in the morning). Good news: I can get away with a 5am start on the mornings I have 8am classes (8am class means I need to be ready to leave the house by 7.30am). Bad news: by about October, I'm going to have to shift my wake-up time back to 4.30am, because I'm still working on extending my writing time each month, and I don't have too much to spare at present. Today I have plans to clear last semester's readings and work off my uni laptop, and make sure its battery is all charged up and ready to go, and then I'm all set to go.
So this week I'm going to get a bit political.
( Ranting below the fold )
Okay, so, spleen vented. How's everyone else this week?
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Weekly Update 22 JUL 2017
Good grief, the inter-semester break is nearly over. It's O-week for the mid-year starting students next week (good reason to stay away from campus, in my opinion) and classes start again the following Monday. Back to the grind again...
I went down to campus on Thursday for a couple of reasons. One was meeting up with the wonderful princesskessie, the other was finding out where all my classes are being held (two of my classes are starting at 8am, the other two are starting at 9am, and quite honestly, I was less than enthused about the idea of trying to find a lecture theatre I've never been to before on a crowded campus at 7.45am in the morning in the pouring rain (it's winter here, plan for rain) when I'm only running on 1 cup of tea at best. Much easier to locate the classes ahead of time, and be able to pootle along there without too much stress.
I'm lucking out this semester - so far, no stairs for any of the classes I'm involved in. Might have to go up a couple of rows in the lecture theatres, but I suspect that's going to be easy enough. Which means my cranky knees (one of them doesn't like going up stairs, the other one isn't fond of going down them) will not have anything to annoy them this semester.
The jaw is healing up on schedule - I've finished the course of penicillin the dentist gave me to avoid infection, and I've also stopped needing to take Nurofen every day. Things are still a bit owie, but not seriously enough so that I'm needing pain relief.
I got back to the baking this week - I made a spicy fruit loaf on Thursday, and I've been working my way through that, as well as the fruit cake I made back before my dental misadventures. I also have plans to make up a batch of citrus poppyseed muffins, just to see how it all works out (if I'm really enthused, I might treat 'em with the lemon syrup from a different recipe as well). It's a good way of working through some of the lemons and limes I have in the fridge (they've been on special lately, so I've been buying them on the regular, in the hope it'll prompt me to make things with them. So now I just have to make the things!). The spicy fruit loaf was a "rub in" method cake, which showed me how little strength and stamina I had in my thumbs (when rubbing in butter hurts, it's a sign I need to do it more often. Time to start looking out scone recipes, I suspect).
Aside from that, and the housework, of course, I've not really been doing much. How's everyone else?
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