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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[1]. 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.

[1] 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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Current Mood: stressed stressed
Unicorn Chasers

Because it's That Time Of The Year (the anniversary of The Day Everything Went Pear-Shaped Back In 2001) and a lot of people, whether they're aware of it or not, are probably feeling niggly, bad-tempered, and finding their brains are finding them a lot of things to get miserable about for some reason, I figure I'll do a short post of Unicorn Chasers - the sorts of things on the internet that can cheer you up.

My current one is the series Under The Wing of A Nibel Dragon by Gothams_Only_Wolf over on AO3. This is a gorgeous series which is set approximately 15 years before the start of standard Final Fantasy VII canon, where an 11 year old Sephiroth gets what is turning out to be the best fix-it in the history of the fandom. It contains a five-year-old Cloud Strife who is as cute as a button, a Vincent Valentine who wakes up fifteen years early, and a lot of other characters, some new, some recognisable.

Waiting for the Great Leap Forward is another thing I've been using to deal with my current case of the crankies. Mostly for the line about "Dr Robert Oppenheimer's optimism fell at the first hurdle" - this is a wonderful song about what it feels like to be down here at the sharp end of life, rather than up at the top where the decisions are made. Billy Bragg gets it, I think.

I will also recommend Scandinavia and the World which is a beautiful comic by Humon, full of mostly kind-hearted humour about the ways that various countries are perceived to behave, both internally and externally. Humon is a Dane, who has lived in England for a while, and a lot of the comics focus on the interplay between Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, but there's also visits by a lot of other nations as well.

So, what does everyone else use as a unicorn chaser? Share some links in the comments!

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Current Mood: getting better getting better
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[1], 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).

[1] 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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Current Mood: awake awake
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.

[1] 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.
[2] 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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Current Mood: blah blah
Today's Bit of Schadenfreude

Christensen threatens to leave Coalition amid fears Bernardi may form own party

Not so much the article, rather the comment thread below it - which is so far up to about nineteen pages of the equivalent of "Jump, you bastard! JUMP!" and "Don't let the door hit your arse as you leave".

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Current Mood: cynical cynical
How To Get Through This: Tips From A Lifelong Depressive

A lot of people are probably feeling numb, flattened and despairing today in the aftermath of the US election. In other words, you're feeling much the same way I often feel for no reason whatsoever. So in the interest of being able to get through the whole mess, and pull yourselves out the other side, and deal with the rest of the world rather than hiding in a bunker panicking for the next few months, I offer the following tips.

1) Acknowledge what you're feeling is genuine. Don't tell yourself you're "over-reacting" or "being over-dramatic" or "being silly". Especially, don't try to tell yourself that you're "fine" (unless you actually mean, "freaked out, insecure, neurotic and emotional" when you say that). What you're feeling is what you're genuinely feeling, and it's something which deserves to be acknowledged. Don't try to make yourself feel happier or better. Just accept you're feeling bad, and you're allowed to feel bad.

2) Start treating your emotional self the way you'd treat a six-year-old who was feeling the same way. If you need cuddles or hugs, try and get those from friends and family members. If you need to huddle in a blanket with a stuffed animal, do that. If you want to eat chocolate, eat chocolate. Soothe your inner child, in tangible, physical ways. Physical comfort builds mental comfort. Our minds are linked to our bodies. If our minds are in turmoil, comforting the body can help ease this. So eat comfort food (the best comfort food is hot, milky and sweet, because that taps back into our first memories of being comforted and soothed as babies), wear comfortable clothes and favourite colours, and keep at a comfortable temperature for the environment (cool if it's warm out, warm if it's cold out).

3) Acknowledge that emotions require energy. If you're feeling a lot of things, you're going to be more tired, and you're going to need more sleep. So, see whether you can re-arrange your sleep schedule such that you're going to bed earlier, and sleeping a bit longer. Try to avoid pushing yourself intellectually in your time off - now would be a good time for things like colouring in, or playing solitaire or listening to music, or other recreations which don't require you to be doing much thinking. Re-read favourite books (the ones which are sort of like chewing gum for the mind - the ones where you can just sit back and let the story flow over you and not have to think for a bit).

4) If you're feeling constantly anxious, panicking over things, start asking yourself these questions:

  • What am I actually worried about? Write down a list, if you feel the need - often one of the underlying "anxiety" processes is a worry that you've forgotten something important that you were worrying about. Writing a list of worries helps defuse that one. Writing a list also helps pin down what you're worried about
  • Are these things I'm worried about things which are certain to happen (for example, "the sun is certain to rise tomorrow"), things which are probably going to happen ("the sun will rise in the east"), or is something which is technically possible, but not necessarily feasible ("the sun will rise in the north")? Put more energy into dealing with the things which are certain, or probable. Things which are only possible aren't worth worrying about until they ascend the ladder of probability.
  • What can I do about this problem right now, right this minute? It is likely the answer will be "nothing". If you are unable to do something about the problem, then worrying about it isn't going to help anyone. Least of all yourself. Start intervening actively in your worry loops, and diverting your thoughts elsewhere.

Intervening in worry loops is a skill - which means it can be learned, and it will improve over time. What it involves is three things: recognising you're stuck in a loop, stopping the loop, and changing the mental subject. Recognising you're stuck in a loop starts by recognising you're anxious in the first place - and again, the questions above can help there: start at "what am I worried about?". Does the same subject come up repeatedly? In that case, you're stuck in a loop. Stopping the loop involves catching yourself in the worry, and quite literally choosing not to pursue it - and the easiest way to do this is by changing the mental subject. I've found things like multiplication tables useful for me when I'm trying to do this - start at 1x1 and work up to 20x20, and if I make a mistake, I have to go back to 1x1 again and start over. Or play "FizzBuzz" with yourself (count from 1 to as high as you go, replacing every number divisible by 5 with "fizz" and every number divisible by 7 with "buzz" - again, make a mistake and you have to start over).

Oh, and while you're anxious, accept you're not going to be 100% on the intellectual side. You have the anxiety sitting there occupying mental cycles, and this is going to affect your mental processing speed in the same way having an anti-virus program performing a scan affects the performance of a computer. Things are going to be slowed down, and take a bit longer to run. Be kind to yourself while this is happening - brains are much harder to reboot than computers.

5) If you find you're really sunk into a negative frame of mind, unable to see any positives in life, I offer the following tip which has worked for me. Get a notebook. Into that notebook, each day, write three things which went right. Note the phrasing there: it's "things which went right" as opposed to "things which went wrong". At present, you're probably going to have problems with things like "positive" or "good" or "happy" - it's impossible to spot those things when the emotions are right off the radar. But when you're feeling like this, trust me, you can spot everything which is going wrong in your life - and that makes it easier, in turn, to spot the things which aren't. Doesn't have to be a big thing - a hot drink on a cold day, or even the thought of not having to be outside in rotten weather is enough. But you have to find three things each day which went right, and write them down in the notebook.

Please note: this isn't going to perform an instant transformation on your mood. It isn't supposed to perform an instant transformation on your mood. What it is intended to do is perform a gradual transformation and build the habit of not looking on the dark side all the time.

In conclusion, I will leave you with this truth: believe me, you CAN get through this bad spell of mental weather. What you're experiencing now, in the aftermath of a terrible shock in world events, is what a lot of mentally ill people live with on a constant basis. Yes, the real world events are terrible. But you cannot let these real world events rule you to the extent that you give up living, give up hoping, give up working toward change. What I've offered here is a collection of coping tips which worked for me to allow me to do this. I'm hoping they'll work for other people as well.

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Current Mood: compassionate compassionate
In Response to the Furore re: Clementine Ford

What happened in the Clementine Ford case was this: a bloke said something abusive about her on the internet, in such a way that it could be linked back to his employer. Namely, he had his employer details on his Facebook profile[1], and Ms Ford brought his online behaviour to his employer's attention. He got sacked as a result of his actions, because his employers didn't want to deal with the negative publicity involved.

Or in other words, this bloke did the online equivalent of yelling abuse at her on public transport while wearing his workplace uniform, getting snapped while doing so, and reported to his employers.

Now, we'd all agree that if someone did something like the second example above, should they get sacked, it was their own silly fault, and they should have behaved civilly in a public setting. We'd agree if a guy yelled abuse at a woman in a public hotel, or a shopping mall while wearing anything with their employer's logo (such as a uniform shirt or similar), the woman they yelled at would be within her rights to report it to their employer, and the employer would be within their rights to sack the damn fool for being too daft to work there any more. We'd agree that if a guy launched into a tirade of abuse at a woman for talking to her friends in the pub, he'd be due at the very least to be barred from being served any more alcohol, and more likely, kicked out by the management.

We readily agree that unprovoked personal abuse in a public context is unacceptable when it's in a face-to-face context, and that if someone does it while being able to be clearly linked to an employer, a professional organisation, a particular religion, or family or so on, then they should bear the social consequences of their actions being reported to those groups. We agree that doing such things while being able to be linked to employers, professional organisations, religions, disapproving family members or similar is something which is likely to fall under the parameters of the Being Bloody Stupid Act[2] - not only do you wear the consequences, but it's expected you're going to wear them politely, suck it up and bloody well deal!

Yet somehow, the apparent expectation is that this bloke (and the many others who do similar things, such as sending abusive and/or harassing emails from their work email accounts), who has done something Bloody Stupid (and Bloody Rude, while we're at it) should be allowed to not only get away with his actions, but that it's positively unfair of Ms Ford to have pointed them out to his employer. That this was somehow an over-reaction, and a vindictive act. That he should not have been forced to deal with the consequences of his behaviour (a behaviour he chose to carry out of his own free will, and which he wasn't, to the best of anyone's knowledge, coerced into by any other person) in an adult fashion.

To be honest, I'm with Ms Ford on this. He brought his problems on himself, and my sympathy is strictly limited.

(PS: Guys, women across the world have already learned this: on the internet, you have precisely as much privacy and anonymity as you can be bothered to carve out. If you can't be arsed to keep your online life strictly segregated from your offline life, then the only damn solution is to ensure your online behaviour is either beyond reproach, or something you would feel positive about defending to your employers, your spouse, your mates, your girlfriend, your mother, your grandmother, your kids, your work colleagues, and anyone else in your offline life who asks about it. Because otherwise, sure as eggs are eggs, your online sins will find you out, eventually).

[1] Strangely enough, not many women feel it's appropriate to have such details publicly available online. The main reason why not starts with "bl" and rhymes with "folks".
[2] Ankh-Morpork legal code.

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Current Mood: irritated irritated
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