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So It's Been A Bad Week

This week has been a Bad Week. I have had my jerk!brain playing up, and this has not been helped by being kept relatively low on decent sleep as the result of the physical problems mentioned earlier this week (did you know if rolling over in bed causes enough pain, you can't actually sleep through it? No? Neither did I until about Sunday. Since when I have had plenty of opportunity to learn). Let's put it this way: a week where I wind up in tears because I'm thinking about committing suicide via self-immolation in front of a Centrelink office, and then I'm in tears because I know I won't do it (and the message my brain is giving me about this particular realisation is not "good survival thinking, congratulations!" but rather "well, aren't you pathetically useless, then? Can't even get dying right. *dismissive snort*"), is not going to be a good week even if there's a shock lottery win involved in the middle of things.

Topics I am therefore avoiding like the plague at present include: Australian welfare policy 1990 - present; Australian politics 1990 - present; Australian industrial relations; US politics (in all its glory and convulsive mess); sports of any kind; and anything else where I'm likely to be encountering the wonderful human tendency to take things from Bad to Worse, and then repeat the cycle indefinitely. Particularly when this is combined with the equally gorgeous tendency which appears to be spreading of late for people to have No Middle Gears - either full speed ahead, or full speed reverse, but nothing in between those two extremes. Subtlety, complexity, nuance? Wot dat?

Needless to say such things are Not Good For Me at present.

If anyone finds a black materia sitting around, could they please forward it on to me? I have a list of targets which is only growing.

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Current Mood: cranky cranky
Update 13 MAY 2017

Yeah, I'm trying to do these weekly. We'll see how it lasts.

Winter is icumen in here in Western Australia - I woke up today to see fog in the valley heading down toward Berwick St, and the neighbours with the wood fire are starting to get some use out of it now the nights and mornings are getting chilly. My current level of rugging up: leggings under my jeans, jumper[1] over my long-sleeved t-shirt, and shoes and socks (I may dig out my ugg boots today, just for the fun of it; Saturday is "stay at home and play games" day, so I can dress the full slob if I want to).

I have a whole heap of stuff for uni I'm supposed to be working on at present (and this week's schedule was complicated by me needing to get to and start writing something I'd previously thought was due about two weeks later - discovered this on the Monday, had to have it in by Thursday). Fortunately for me, it was three five hundred word pieces, and I can do five hundred words in my sleep. So that's been submitted. The harder job for me was actually something where I have to do three hundred words plus/minus ten percent (so between 270 and 330 words) - in one case I was editing down something like 1000 words to 330, in another trying to knock things down from around the 500 word mark to the 300 word mark. What's worse, the brief for this second assignment only mentions a three hundred word minimum - it doesn't mention a maximum at all. So I wound up having to actually ask my tutor: okay, we have a minimum and no maximum stated; what is the unspoken maximum here? (And why they couldn't be bothered to just say: three hundred words, plus or minus ten percent?).

Things I learned this week: editing is hard mental work. I edited down three pieces to fit the word count, and I was exhausted by the end of it.

I'm still in recovery from the flu, but I managed to reclaim enough spoons yesterday to make cooking seem like a good idea. I have some Pumpkin Mulligatawny (basically, curried pumpkin soup, to which I plan to add rice and coconut milk) going in the slow cooker. I did a bit of preliminary work with the potato masher to get the veges broken up a bit, and I'm going to be running the stick blender through it in batches a bit later on.

The Great Caterpillar Cull continues, although it's dropped down to a mornings-only proceeding. Unfortunately, the wards appear to be breaking down, because I've started to find caterpillars coming back into my room again in the mornings (only one or two per day, but still... caterpillars). We're still getting over 30 caterpillars a day in the cull, and I suspect we're going to continue seeing those sorts of numbers for a long while yet.


[1] This is the Australian/British meaning of "jumper" - a knitted garment which covers the upper body; as distinct from a sweatshirt.

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Current Mood: cranky cranky
Continuing Technological Upheaval

Well, I have Orac back, with an OS reinstalled on him and all.

Problem is, while I asked for Windows 7 Home, what I got instead was Windows 10. Hoo-fscking-ray. So now I'm in the middle of reinstalling everything (at least I managed to get my Firefox bookmarks salvaged) and getting all my programs re-sorted and such. Have to re-download an email client (no, I don't want to be trying to use Outlook, thanks very much) as well as setting that up again.

All of this is complicated by the fact I've been suffering from the latest upper respiratory bastardry to be going through - it kicked in with a sore throat on Tuesday; I spent Wednesday being the snotmonster from forty thousand fathoms (or something close to it - going through an entire box of tissues in a single day is something of a nuisance); yesterday was spent in bed being feverish alternated with periods of attempting to cough up a lung; and today I've got the best bits of all three, plus sneezing. If you get a chance to pass on this thing, I'd strongly suggest doing so!

But at least I have Orac back, and I can download stuff and get things working and all the rest. It's better than nothing, even if I am going to probably spend the next few weeks re-installing things and doing the "download, install, restart, lather, rinse, repeat" polka. I'm looking forward to the fun of trying to get Steam to behave, since the re-install didn't wipe the existing partition with some of my Steam games in it, but did wipe out a lot of the others. So that's going to be more fun and games... quite literally. Plus, of course, I have my stuff that I'm supposed to be doing for uni (but which I've been disregarding due to lack of mental resource spoons - for some reason my brain does not wish to brain today).

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Current Mood: unwell unwell
Unending Technological Upheaval

(aka I love it when my life goes right... which may be why this happens so very rarely).

My main laptop, fondly nicknamed Orac, has decided today it has aspirations toward being a boat anchor. It starts booting Windows 7, gets as far as loading avgidsha.sys, and then just stops dead. I am currently writing this on my backup machine, Elfadunk, which is the little laptop which I bought for uni purposes - it's barely got the grunt to handle Chrome as a browser, and definitely isn't up to the sort of load I usually put on a main machine.

A bit of googling determines this is a known error (damnit) and the wretched thing is a problem with the intersection between AVG antivirus and Windows 7 (and higher, it appears). Given I've been using AVG for years without issue, I'm just a tad irritated. Steve's busy attempting to fix Orac now using a couple of fixes found via the interwebs, and we'll see whether we can get Orac to actually boot and work properly. If this doesn't work, I'm going to have to head out and clean out my bank account attempting to find myself another PC which will be a reasonable substitute.

Needless to say I'm just a little irritable about the whole mess. If nothing else, I'm going to have to try to re-create my entire bookmarks folder from Firefox via memory and guesswork (as well as trying to remember things like my actual ID for my.gov.au so I can report my employment income tomorrow... why do these things always happen at the most inconvenient time?). I swear, I get Orac booting again, and the first thing I'm going to be doing is transferring my bookmarks to a separate spreadsheet of their own, taking an HTML copy of the Firefox bookmarks file and stowing it on the terabyte drive, and keeping regular backups of same!

Grump!

(Updates as they occur. At present, we've managed to get Orac to "startup repair" mode, and we'll see whether this allows him to actually boot).

Update 11.54am: Steve's going to try making up a repair/reinstall disk to see whether we can get Orac to behave. Whatever happens, I'm going to be trying to find a different antivirus program. Any suggestions for free/cheap reputable antivirus gratefully accepted.

Update 1.22pm: Repair or reinstall disc failed. Called out Geek Mobile to get a backup, nuke and repave done on the OS. It's apparently going to cost me about $200, which seems a bit steep, but is about half the price of even the most basic new computer (well, aside from another Elfadunk equivalent). I have never been so glad I got into the awkward habit of keeping my files and documents stored on the terabyte backup drive, because at least I'm not going to lose any documents from this. Plus, of course, I keep the original download & install files for most of the software stored on the backup drive as well, so I can get the majority of my software reinstalled fairly easily. Still. Curse, swear, mumble.

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Current Mood: cranky cranky
On Working For the Dole.

So, I've been unemployed for six months (according to Centrelink, anyway). Which means, lucky me, I'm due to start my "Work For The Dole Phase" of the whole glorious process of being unemployed in Australia in the 21st century.

For those not in the know, "work for the dole" was an idea conceived back in the era of John Howard, by Liberal Party policy-makers who wanted to bring back the workhouses, but who didn't fancy the idea of having to shell out money to feed, house and clothe the undeserving poor (i.e. anyone on an activity-tested Centrelink payment[1]). Basically, in order to impress on the long-term unemployed how important it is they find paying work, they're required to perform up to twenty-five hours a week of compulsory, unpaid[2] volunteer work in order to be able to continue receiving their dole payment. I suspect whoever came up with this one must have woken up in the night and hugged themselves with glee[3].

Luckily for me, I'm on a part-time activity test (mental illness, such fun). I only have to do sixteen hours a fortnight worth of whatever the current equivalent of picking oakum, washing bottles, pasting labels or sorting rags is. Normally, the requirement is for fifteen hours a week for someone my age, twenty-five for someone younger. In my case, I'm going to be transcribing old (hand-written) court records from turn-of-the-century-NSW (i.e. early 1900s). Years of translating my mother's appalling medical handwriting into something legible has finally come in useful.

Basically, this sort of thing is supposed to... well, I have no idea what it's supposed to do. Punish me for the sin of not being in employment, one presumes. I have the site induction on Thursday, I suppose I get to find out then whether I'm supposed to be wearing sackcloth and rubbing ashes into my hair to show repentance, flagellating myself with a cat-o'-nine-tails, or whether just walking around wearing a sandwich board that says "I'm SO FUCKING SORRY" will do.

Yes, I am a bit cranky about this.

I'm cranky about it, because it's a bit of deliberate humiliation on the part of a government which has an ideological agenda, and will do anything in its power to get that agenda implemented. I'm cranky about it because I'm being forced into performing unpaid labour in order to ensure wage earners are frightened into accepting lower wages and lower conditions in order to avoid being put into this situation. I'm cranky about it because the penalties for missing work, or not being able to perform whatever work I'm supposed to be doing on the day I'm supposed to be doing it, are all on me (yes, even if my erstwhile "employer" doesn't have enough work for me to be doing, or the computers are down, or the office gets hit by a meteor falling from the sky).

Oh, and I still have to keep looking for 20 jobs a month, same as before. That doesn't change, either. About the only positive thing to note about the whole mess is that since the place I'm going to be physically doing my Work for the Dole placement is the offices of my JobActive provider, I'll be able to drop off my monthly lists with a lot less carry-on.


[1] Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, and Special Benefit.
[2] If your "volunteering" is organised through your JobActive provider, you get an extra $20 per fortnight on your dole payment to cover costs incurred (transport, lunches etc). If it isn't, you don't. There's a LOT of encouragement to find your own "volunteer work".
[3] A bit of googling reveals it was the brain-child of Tony Abbott. I must remember to write him a thank-you note.

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location: At home
Current Mood: cranky cranky
Current Music: The whistle of the steam coming out of my ears
I Can Just *Tell* It's Going To Be One Of Those Days...

Had a very poor night's sleep last night (had trouble going to sleep due to the heat; woke up during the night overheated and dehydrated, and couldn't get back to sleep for over an hour; got jolted awake again by leg cramps about a half an hour before my alarm was due to go off). I'm currently sitting here experiencing one of my warning signs for gastro-intestinal distress (burping up gas which sort of tastes like bacon as it passes over my tongue). I have an appointment with my Job Active provider at 9am (which I am NOT looking forward to, because they're about as useless as tits on a bull, and they're intended to be this useless as a point of government policy). Oh, and I got another letter in my email from the nice people at Moton Group "offering" me a "job", as well as two email letters from the latest iteration of the "LKT Company" scam (the company has changed its name and now calls itself "Nocturne", and refers to itself as "fast-growing", but the other particulars are pretty much the same).

The signs are not positive. Unfortunately my preferred remedy (going back to bed, pulling the sheet over my head and pretending today doesn't exist) is not available (see: appointment at 9am). So I'll need to head to plan B - bull through things.

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Current Mood: cranky cranky
(Yet) Another Mass Shooting in the USA

I'm not going to go into huge detail about this one (save to note that so far this year, there have been more mass shootings in the USA than there have been days in the year). Instead, I'm going to concentrate on some things which could be tried to stop these things from happening (or at least slow down the rate of them) without necessarily altering gun laws.

Detail under fold )

Now, none of these three things is going to drastically drop the number of mass shootings immediately. If you want an immediate impact on the number of mass shootings in the USA, then it's going to have to be done through gun control laws, just the same as everywhere else on the planet. But in the medium-to-long term, and particularly if you have the NRA and their paid-up politicians remaining as stubborn as ever on the issue, then these measures will help.

So start speaking to the media firms. Start speaking to your political candidates. Start demanding change.

Ignore the idiots who say "it's too soon" - as I pointed out above, you're currently averaging better than 1 mass shooting per day. How many do there need to be before things change? Ignore the fools who accuse you of "politicising the issue. Shootings like this are essentially about power - which means they're political from the get-go. The choice to do something about preventing them is a political choice, I'll grant you - but so is the choice not to.

It's up to the people of the USA to make it clear they don't want to see this happening. And the best way to start is by denying these little dickweasels who want to exhibit their sense of entitlement, their sense of personal power, the attention that they so desperately crave.

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Current Mood: downright cranky downright cranky
An Open Letter To Helen Garner, on Ageing, Invisibility, and Thing-dom

Dear Ms Garner,

Letter below )

Sincerely,

Megpie71

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Current Mood: cranky cranky
On Command Decisions and Backseat Driving

In the hours following the cessation of the siege in Sydney, there's been a number of people crawling out of the woodwork wondering why the police didn't bring in a sniper to shoot the hostage-taker and bring the thing to an early end. The plaints tend to go along the lines of "if a television camera can get a good shot, so can a sniper rifle; why didn't they get a sniper in?". Unfortunately, the police aren't allowed to respond to such asinine comments with the equivalent of a good solid clip around the ear, due to reasons of public relations and all. So I've decided to do it for them.

(If you're one of the people who has been making such remarks, please read the following very carefully, using the "speaking to the hard-of-thinking" voice in your head.)

1) A sniper rifle and a television camera look very different.

Googling the terms "image television camera" and "image sniper rifle" will bring up galleries of pictures of each of those. Each search takes about 0.3 of a second to complete. Given a hostage-taking gunman wants to cultivate the press, but discourage police snipers, it's likely even the most daft example of the breed in this day and age will probably try to familiarise themselves with the differences between the two - you could call it a necessary job skill. Seeing television cameras is a cue to pull out your list of demands and make it clear the hostages aren't dead yet. Seeing a sniper rifle is a cue to start really threatening the hostages. It's important not to muddle the two up.

2) A sniper rifle and a television camera have different fields of view.

Television cameras tend to work best at medium to close range. Sniper rifles are designed to work best at long range. So the position a television camera operator is occupying in order to obtain a decent shot (even through a zoom lens) is likely to be a lot closer than the position a sniper would need to be occupying in order to obtain a decent shot. Indeed, the television camera operator might well be blocking the field of view for the sniper.

3) Television cameras and sniper rifles are affected differently by weather conditions.

Television pictures tend not to be blown off course by strong or irregular winds. Sniper bullets, on the other hand, do. A television camera can get pictures in conditions where a sniper wouldn't be able to get a shot. Contrariwise, a sniper is capable of getting a shot off in conditions where the television camera is useless.

4) Real life is not like video games.

In video games, if your sniper misses a shot, you can always have another try, or go back to your last save point if you got killed. In real life, death is for keeps. In video games, the aim is usually to kill as many enemy combatants as possible, and never mind the collateral damage or the civilian casualties. In real life, the aim of the police in such situations is generally to try and keep the death count down - I have no doubt the NSW police were hoping to keep the death count in this particular case down to zero.

5) Real life is not like movies.

In the movies, snipers never miss the crucial shot. In real life, they can and do. In real life, the target of a sniper drops to the floor, dead, before they know they've been hit. In real life, even a bullet fired from a gun fitted with a noise suppressor is loud, and gives at least some warning. In the movies, accidents don't happen to disrupt that crucial shot - civilians don't walk into the path of a sniper's bullet at exactly the wrong moment, the target doesn't move, and the whole thing goes perfectly. In real life, accidents can and do happen. In the movies, there's always a crucial shot to take. In real life, there may not be.

Incidentally, the reason both movies and video games are so different from real life is because both of these media are constructed stories, following a set narrative which was created by humans to be culturally satisfying. Real life runs on different rails, and doesn't have to satisfy anyone.

6) At the time the most-used television shot was taken, the siege was barely begun.

The passing shots of the gunman in the cafe were taken very early on in the siege. They were the first visuals the wider public had of the situation. The fact they were widely circulated is actually a marker of how unusual they were - if there'd been more shots, we would have seen more pictures of the gunman. As it was, we got that one rather blurry image of the gunman, positioned behind his hostages, which was repeated regularly throughout the day. It wasn't replaced. It wasn't superseded by something new throughout the course of the sixteen hours of the siege. So it's likely that shot was the ONLY shot the television cameras got of the gunman (and once he realised television cameras could see him, he made damn certain he wasn't in view of them again, because he's just as capable of doing the "if the cameras can see me, so can a sniper" math as anyone else).

7) How do you know they didn't call a sniper in?

It seems highly likely to me that the NSW police (who strike me as a competent force on the whole) would have called in at least one sniper to get a look at things and see firstly whether there was a suitable vantage for them to be working from, and secondly, whether they were likely to get a decent shot at the gunman without risking the hostages. If a sniper wasn't used, it was probably because in the professional judgement of both the sniper(s) themselves, and of the person in charge of the operation, the risks of using a sniper outweighed the potential benefits.

Essentially, my point is this: the people who are wondering about the snipers, or wondering why things were done thus rather than so weren't there and weren't responsible for making the decisions. Things turned out poorly in one respect - three people died, and another eight were injured or treated in hospital. However, in another respect, things turned out surprisingly well - only three people died, one of whom was the gunman; the majority of the injured were mainly taken to hospital for observation and monitoring; and at least five of the hostages escaped completely unscathed. It could have been better, and it could have been much, much worse.

We in the general public cannot possibly wish to find out what went wrong more than the police do. We aren't the ones who will have to live with the knowledge we were supposed to save the lives of the three people who died, and yet we couldn't. The police on scene did the best job they could. The back-seat driving and "Monday's Expert" commentary from various members of the general public most definitely isn't helping. If you think you could have done better, go speak with your local police force, and offer them your expertise for the next time (gods forbid) this happens. Or, alternatively, go join your local police force yourself. Put your life on the line, put your precious skin at risk, and put your money where your damn-fool mouth is. Otherwise, shut the merry hells up and stop second-guessing the people who do this for a living.

PS: For those bitching about the fact the gunman was out on bail - that's a problem for the justice system, not the police force. For those whining about the way ASIO didn't spot this guy as a threat - I suspect they're looking for people who are going to group together to create terrorist cells and undertake complicated plots. This siege, while it had some of the trappings of terrorist activity (the calls for the IS flag etc) was actually something which has more in common with the sorts of "lone gunman" attacks which are so common in the USA, and was probably undertaken for similar reasons to those. Namely, one over-entitled man decided other people ought to die or be terrified in the service of boosting his ego.

EDITED TO ADD (19 DEC 2014): One other little wrinkle about why the NSW police might have decided a sniper was a Bad Move - it's an extra-judicial killing, or to put it in more blunt terms, deliberate murder. We don't have the death penalty here in Australia; if the police kill someone, there's usually an enquiry into the matter (which is, in fact, the process which is being started in NSW now) and charges can and will be laid against the officer responsible. It can be a career-limiting move.

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Current Mood: cranky cranky
Vaguely disjointed ramble.

So, I seriously need to do something about my anxiety problems.

I've spent the past five weeks of the election campaign getting steadily tighter and tighter wound, envisioning all the various ways the next three years can go catastrophically wrong. It's not that hard, given access to a number of news feeds - all it requires is a look at the US and Europe, and figuring out how the parties currently in charge of Australia are going to implement austerity this time around. Because, let's face it, they're going to implement austerity whether we need it or not. The Proprietors want it, so we're getting it. Less government "interference", less "handouts" (particularly if you're in the lower income brackets) and less government service. Goody goody gumdrops.

Anyway, I've spent the past five weeks dreading what's going to be happening. Yesterday, I did the best I could against the onslaught. Now I'm stuck with the results of the past five weeks, and there's nothing I can do about it.

I've spent most of today feeling exhausted - physically, mentally, and psychologically. I really just want to curl up and go to sleep, and hopefully not have to wake up again. All that wound up tension is unwinding, because there's really nothing I can do at this point. I have a feeling I'm going to be having another depressive crash as a result, lucky me.

But really, I need to figure out a way of avoiding getting into these anxious states in the first place. It seems to be all tied in with the amount of feeling I do - I seem to feel things too deeply for my own comfort a lot of the time. I can't be detached, or isolated. I care too much, and that caring leaves me vulnerable, because the caring makes me angry, and the anger makes me anxious, or depressed when it goes sour. It's like I was born without the top layer of skin - I'm all raw, all the time, and all exposed nerve endings. So yeah, I can see why the SSRIs help, even though what they do isn't to actually stop me feeling - at best what they do is put a delay between the contact and the reaction (meaning I stay in contact with the harmful stuff longer, and it hurts me more before I pull away). But it slows the impact of the hurt, makes it possible for me to react to it.

I dunno. I think what I need is some way of not caring about things as much, of not having as much passion about the world, of not having everything so close to the surface. But on the other hand, that's ME. I've always been like this; it's part of what makes me who I am. Would I still be me if I stopped reacting so readily to things?

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Current Mood: vaguely depressed vaguely depressed
Another Update

So, it's about half four in the morning, I've been awake since about ten to three, and I've just had another mini-meltdown because each time I think I've realised all the packing I have to do and how much stuff I have to fit and how little space I have to fit it into, there turns out to be another fractal level of it I've forgotten. Things like "how do I fit an entire wardrobe's worth of clothing into one suitcase"? Admittedly, it's a large suitcase. But it's still only the one suitcase, and I have to try and fit clothing which currently fills a wardrobe, a chest of drawers, and a couple of storage tubs into it.

Plus there's the whole question of "what do I do with the contents of the pantry?" I suspect most of it will have to be thrown out (because there's no way known to mankind I'm going to be able to fit all of it into the pantries of either my mother or Steve's mother) and I'm not sure how much of it can be given to various food banks, or even how to get into contact with those food banks to find out whether they take donations.

There's so much needs doing, and so little time and so few spoons for me to be doing it with.

Well, it's half five now, and I've decided to do some dishes (I want pancakes for breakfast, so I have to wash the frypan and some cutlery).

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Current Mood: stressed stressed
I'm F I N E...

... and we all know that stands for Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional, right? Right.

What's stressing me out 15 MAR 2013

* Have to go to Centrelink and hand in paperwork - don't want to deal with bureaucratic bullshit
* Scared we're not going to be able to get enough money from Centrelink between the witholdings for the debt and everything else to afford food and rent simultaneously.
* Scared this is going to count against us when we're looking for accommodation
* Deadline for accommodation is coming up faster and faster
* Behind on assignments
* Haven't been taking meds, because taking meds falls off the bottom of the list very early on when I'm even vaguely stressed
* Don't have enough meds to last more than about a fortnight
* Getting more meds would entail going back to the doctors and I haven't been since about mid-December
* Don't want to go back to the doctor and have to explain why I haven't been taking meds, why I haven't been back to see them since December, and why I didn't book that blasted ultrasound
* Don't want to have to go through the whole rigmarole of explaining why the hell I don't like making phone calls (eg to book appointments for a thyroid ultrasound) because I know it sounds insane and stupid and idiotic and pointless.
* Don't want to have to damn well get back on the medication-go-round for the depression because I know it won't work more than temporarily.
* Haven't done anywhere near enough work on my assignments and study for uni
* Haven't done anything about looking for new accommodation since about Monday
* Haven't been keeping up with the housework
* Feel like I need to be keeping up with all of these things and I haven't got the energy or inclination
* Didn't eat anything yesterday apart from that sandwich and the spring rolls and the coffee
* Don't want to be scolded for not having eaten
* Don't want to cook
* Suspect my period is starting
* Nerve in my right shoulder/upper arm/forearm is trapped *again* and it's giving me gyp
* Scared I'm breaking down again
* Don't want to be homeless, and really can't see how we're going to avoid that at this point
* Steve doesn't seem to understand any of this, so I'm getting next to no support, and what support I'm getting isn't really the useful stuff
* Feel isolated and crazy.
* If I go to the doctors to talk about not taking the meds, they tell me to take the meds, and when I explain I'd like to but my brain isn't processing the request properly they tell me to get Steve to remind me, except Steve doesn't seem to take his OWN meds regularly so why the merry hell would he be willing to nag me about mine, never mind my typical reaction to nagging is to run screaming in the other direction. So how this is supposed to help is beyond me.
* There's so much to be done with regards to packing and decluttering and clearing things out and all the rest and I have no idea how to deal with it all.
* I don't know whether there's a clothing reprocessing group (like Salvos or Sammies) which is likely to take the stuff which is piled up in the spare room - all the shirts and clothes I've worn through over the years - and be able to salvage the usable cloth from them, and I don't want to just chuck everything in the bin because there's still something that someone could use in there I'm sure and I don't want to waste it. So it sits there and doesn't get dealt with and sits there and reproaches me because I'm a bad housekeeper and I'm lousy at being useful and it's just THERE squatting in the corner like some kind of malign Buddha.
* Don't know whether the djembe and the bodhran would be resellable (presume they would) and don't know what a reasonable price to ask is, so I'm scared of over-asking and getting no offers, or under-asking and having people laugh at me, and if I just say "make me an offer" I'm going to look like a fool.
* Don't think we can afford to live on foodsicles and takeaway much longer (if indeed we can now) and quite honestly that's all I feel like eating because cooking means I have to cook and clean and shop and function and I'm not functioning and it's all too bloody hard and why can't Steve do some of this?
* I know I'm dropping my bundle, and I feel useless because of it, because I should be able to HANDLE THIS, DAMN IT. But I can't and I can't even make it an amusing post to put up on Dreamwidth because who wants to see me exploding into a billion pieces ... again?
* I haven't done anything for HaT since about the end of January, and the rate I'm going I probably won't do anything for them any time soon and I feel like I'm letting people down when I do that.
* I have no idea where to start with dealing with any of this. (Well, okay, I tell a minor lie - and I'm a horrible person for that, I know - I've taken my meds for today, and I've taken a couple of neurofen to deal with the pain of the pinched nerve). It's all just there and it needs to be dealt with and I desperately need to do some washing today because I have one pair of clean underwear to my name and and and and ... and I just want to go back to bed and hide.
* But I can't go back to bed and hide because I have to go to Centrelink today to hand in paperwork and I don't want to because I don't want to deal with the bureaucratic bullshit, and we're back where I started the list, time to go round again.

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Current Mood: melting down melting down
What A Lovely Thing To Wake Up To

This is from the Meetup.com page of a writers meetup group I was attending. It had been going for maybe about six weeks now.

"This is a group for both writers and aspiring writers. Our aim is to help potential authors understand the basic elements of creating a great story, how to bring that story to fruition, and finally how to create the best chance of becoming a published author. I feel that the initial aim of the group has not been fulfilled. Good luck to the fan fiction people in the group but the group was founded for people who wanted their own original work to be published and that is not possible with fan fiction. Best wishes. [Organiser's name redacted for privacy]"


The italicised text is the stuff which is new today. The bolded text is the stuff which annoyed the hells out of me.

I was the only person in the group who stated they were actively involved with fan fiction. I was also the only person in the group who'd attended all the meetings scheduled, aside from the organiser. There'd been about ten to twelve people other people involved, and yeah, there were problems (mostly to do with the venue and the noise levels there).

However, I wasn't monopolising the group. I wasn't demanding everything should be about fanfic. I wasn't expecting everyone else switch to writing fanfic. As far as I know, I wasn't doing ANYTHING which merited the whole damn group being closed down. And I really resent being effectively blamed for the closure.

Now, if nobody minds particularly, I think I'll go work out my anger by beating up kobolds and bugbears in D&D Online.

[Later note: having talked to my partner about the whole thing (he'd attended one meeting) I got a different perspective on things. His belief was the organiser of this group was attempting to form the whole thing as a way of getting groupies, in effect (he'd had a book conventionally published, and tended to bring this up every meeting), and my attempts to be helpful and participate (putting up links to writing on writing by other writers in the forums, offering to help out with problems with the meetup.com interface etc) were read as being threats to his leadership. In which case, the whole thing starts to look like someone cutting off their nose to spite their face. In either case, he still probably would have been better off by writing a private email to me, rather than shutting down the whole group. I still feel angry about the group having been cancelled, resentful at effectively having been blamed for the cancellation, and rather upset about having received this virtual slap in the face first thing in the morning.]

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Current Mood: upset upset
Cranky and Bitchy. Beware

So yesterday was Australia Day, or as I am now nicknaming it in my head, the Bogan Festival of Flags. Some bright spark in our area decided they were going to have a home fireworks display. Which they started doing at about 1pm, and carried on irregularly throughout the afternoon until about 7pm. Some other little darlings decided that our cul-de-sac street was a good one to hoon up and down on their dirt bikes at irregular loud intervals.

I react badly to unexpected loud noises. They rattle inside my head, and I wind up getting very stressed by them. If it's been a stressful week for me already (which it had been - re-enrolling for this year at uni had required three separate visits and a very angry performance in the student centre to get things sorted out, which I was not impressed by; then I went shopping on Friday which was more stress again) that kind of thing catapults me into full-on overload mode, and I go straight to depressed and stay there. It was one of the things I disliked about living in Canbrrra (where private fireworks are permitted on certain public holidays), and one of the things I was quite happy to leave behind when I left the place.

Never mind that private usage of fireworks in Western Australia is something which is illegal since 1967 (and was made so due to bushfire risk - a fireworks event permit refers to the Bush Fires Act of 1954, which probably has something to say about it all). Never mind that this street we're living on is close to a couple of small "nature strips" which are currently tinder-dry, due to the prolonged drought.

I called in the performance to the police last night, and wrote an email to the council reporting the whole business. I suspect the idiots who were doing it didn't have a permit from the council, and quite frankly I hope they enjoy the fines and the charges.

So, I'm still cranky, I'm still bitchy, and I'm still annoyed despite having got an extra few hours sleep (slept in until 10am today, which is unusual for me in summer). I still have the beginnings of a headache, and I'm still not in a fit mood to deal with anything else sentient. Sounds like the perfect time to go thump kobolds in D&D Online.

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On Being "Socially Awkward"

In the wake of the Readercon incident, and the general rush of convention season in the USA, I feel like addressing the regular refrain which springs up about people who are being accused of sexual harassment at conventions (particularly within the geek community).

This refrain is, of course, that the harasser (particularly a serial harasser) is "socially awkward" or has "poor social skills".

To which I say: bullshit. Absolute and utter crap. I do not believe this in the least.

Why not? Because their behaviour argues otherwise.

It takes a lot of social skill to develop a set of behaviours which are both threatening to the recipients and innocuous to disinterested bystanders. It takes a lot of skill and practice to be able to perform these behaviours in a public setting on a regular basis without drawing attention to oneself. Choosing your victim is a skill which takes practice and social awareness. So does choosing your friends in order to be believed when you tell people you're very, very sorry and it won't happen again (or at least, not until your friends have forgotten the last time).

Serial harassers aren't socially awkward. If they were socially awkward, they wouldn't be the menace they are. On the contrary, they're socially skilled, socially competent, and well practiced in what they're doing. They know where the lines are, and they're adept at walking them. They have enough empathy to figure out what's going to upset their victim, and enough callous self-interest not to care.

Genuine social awkwardness will manifest itself in all environments, in all settings, and around all people. The genuinely socially awkward person won't have many friends, and will have problems fitting into normal social routines under any circumstance. They won't be charming. They won't be popular. They will creep out people of both sexes, and all gender preferences, because they will be obvious. Genuine social awkwardness is rarer than you'd think.

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Current Mood: infuriated infuriated
We're Going To Look Very Silly Dying Of Nothing At All

Couch potato lifestyle kills 5 million per year

PSA: People who don't drink, don't smoke, exercise regularly, don't take excessive physical risks, eat a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet, never let their BMI get outside the healthy range for their height, and have no history of heart disease, diabetes or cancer in their family background will still die.

Reducing inactivity by 10 per cent could eliminate more than half a million deaths every year - no, it won't. At best, it will delay these deaths. It will not "eliminate" them, because death is a natural process, part of the life cycle, and at last count, the number of immortal persons inhabiting this planet was approximately zero.

We will all die. I figure that by being the fat, lazy slob that I am, I'm at least making it easy on the medical practicioner who eventually has to fill in my death certificate.

I also suspect there are going to be a lot of rather affronted corpses over the next few decades - all these people who did all the right things all their lives, and yet still died - because the medical profession and the media have been selling this myth that death is somehow a preventable disease instead of being a developmental stage like puberty.

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Current Mood: irritated irritated
On Asylum Seekers and Boat People

The Australian government is busy attempting to do nothing about asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Australia by boat (aside, of course, from trying to shuffle the responsibility for dealing with them off to Nauru). In the meantime, I've finally come up with the ideal solution to the problem.

Like so many problems, this one can be solved by a bit of education. The trick is to educate the asylum seekers before they leave on their journey. They need to be correctly equipped for the occasion, and they need to approach the Australian coastline with the correct attitude.

To start with, refugee boats should contain at least 5 - 10% armed troops (if possible, they should have better quality weapons than the Australian army). Rather than attempting to make landfall at any of the known ports, the boats should instead be aiming at landing on an unregarded bit of land. Once landfall is achieved, the new arrivals should set up a flag, and claim the area in the name of their former homeland. They should then make a camp, and set up a base.

If confronted by officials or representatives of the Australian government, they should deny the legitimacy of said officials, argue the land was vacant when they arrived, and point out that they don't recognise any extant governing body on this continent. Declaring the current occupants of the area to be sub-human vermin is purely optional, and is left up to the governor of the new country to declare.

While this plan may seem to be inhumane, unspeakably arrogant, and contrary to all known international law, it does have one major advantage: it's been shown to work in multiple circumstances across multiple countries and multiple centuries. When performed by white Europeans, it's called "colonisation". We know it's been successful in this country at least once.

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location: In a snit
Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Julian Assagne Does It Again

Does it strike anyone else that in seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, Julian Assagne is doing just about everything known to (highly privileged) humankind in order to avoid the consequences of his own behaviour?

I would hate to be in the position of the two women who reported his actions to the police in Sweden, watching as the man who violated their trust[1] twists and wriggles in every possible way he can to avoid having to answer for his actions. I would hate to be watching as he moves from one form of avoidance to the next, always trying to dodge the consequences of his behaviour. I would be as angry as all hell as one group of expensive friends after another comes to his rescue, offering monetary assistance, accommodation, legal aid, etcetera.

Oh, but he's lost so much, everyone says. He's effectively stateless, he's relying on the kindness of strangers, he's being persecuted by all these shadowy conspiracies, and besides, the charges aren't for anything serious so why should he have to answer them. To which I say: he chose to be where he is. He chose to start Wikileaks. He chose to poke sticks at a US government which had shown itself to be highly defensive, highly paranoid, and willing to go to extreme lengths in order to preserve what it saw as its rights. He chose to travel freely around the world (something not everyone can do) and to investigate any number of countries as potential new homes. He chose to rely on the hospitality of friends, and to abuse that hospitality.

Julian Assagne's current situation with regard to the US government is something he chose to get into of his own free will. He chose to poke a dragon with a long pointy stick. The dragon noticed.

His position with regard to the Swedish government is something he could have chosen to avoid as well. All he had to damn well do was keep his fucking dick in his fucking daks and not presume that all women exist in a permanent state of "yes, please!". He didn't do that. And he didn't do that in a country where the laws regarding sexual consent are different to the laws where he grew up - from what I can gather, the laws in Sweden presume that women (and men) don't exist in a permanent state of consent to sexual activity, but rather that consent is something which has to be explicitly granted each time.

Julian Assagne is not a martyred hero of the left. Julian Assagne is a highly privileged male who is trying everything he can think of in order to get out of accepting the responsibility for actions he chose to take. Julian Assagne's actions are not unique - there are countless other cases of privileged men fleeing justice in order to avoid being charged with and tried for rape. He's just one more highly privileged moral coward.

[1] I'm stating this as a definite because quite frankly, I doubt anyone would have gone to the same sorts of lengths Mr Assagne has gone to were they entirely innocent of the actions performed.

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location: Same as usual
Current Mood: irritated irritated
Today in the News

Okay, clearly I don't understand Big Business. There's an article in today's ABC newsfeed which is basically another round of the mining companies and the Business Council of Australia howling "we'll all be rooned" because things aren't going 100% their way. They're busy saying that the Australian economy costs too much to do business in, that it's too damn risky and too damn costly, and we should be altering our business to remove our "low productivity and outdated work practices".

They basically argue that resources projects here cost about 40% more than those on the Gulf Coast of the USA - and I'd argue that yes, there's any number of reasons for that:

1) I don't know whether they've realised, but Australia has a smaller population than the USA - we're about 1/15th the size of the US population, and we're at about the carrying capacity of the continent as it stands.
2) We're a bit more geographically isolated than the Gulf Coast of the USA - and certainly a lot of the areas where the resource projects are happening here are a lot further removed from large centres of infrastructure too.
3) We have different legal frameworks to the USA, being a different fucking country and all. This includes things like insisting that all staff be paid a decent wage and that things like environmental regulations and OH&S requirements aren't just optional extras that have to be dealt with if (and only if) you can't afford to pay off the inspector. Oh, we also don't have the concept of "at will" employment enshrined in our social support systems - so we ask that if people are going to be sacked, they're sacked for a reason, given a decent notice period, and paid their redundancy money. We also insist that the indigenous peoples of the location be compensated for any damage done to their tribal lands - and if you're not sure whether a particular location is part of the tribal lands, you can just submit a request to the Native Title Tribunal to find out, can't you!

They point to our labour being "35 per cent less productive" than the labour in the US Gulf Coast for projects near cities (it's up to 60 per cent less productive in remote locations) - and I have to admit I'd like to know what the yardstick they're using is, when the measurements were taken, which projects they're comparing and to what, and how they're categorising "near cities" and "remote". Or in other words, show me the figures, show me the original research - don't just give me the conclusions stripped of all possible context.

But the thing which really stuns me is the following:

"We are in a global competition for capital and in things like iron ore or in coal, we've got growing competition from other countries in the world. And if we become more expensive, or too expensive, then those projects may not occur or may go elsewhere," Mr Shepherd said.

It's the last bit, the notion of "projects going elsewhere" which really stuns me - what, do they really think it's possible to dig up the iron ore in Australia's north-west from say, Somalia? Do they really think that this petty bit of blackmail is going to succeed in basically turning around our entire culture and economic system, just in case one or two big companies decide they don't want to spend their money here? (Well, yes, probably they do. And what's more they're probably right in expecting it given the past track records of various Australian governments, which is depressing).

However, I'd point to a statement made by our PM fairly recently. Ms Gillard apparently located her spine, and pointed out to a whole heap of mining company executives that, contrary to their apparent belief (as expressed via their corporate behaviour) they don't own all the minerals in Australia. Instead, these minerals are owned in common by the peoples of Australia. Mining companies don't get freehold rights to the areas they mine. Instead, they're given mining leases. I think it's about time for the Government to grow a spine and basically point out to various mining companies that if they don't like the damn conditions here, they don't have to put up with them. There's bound to be someone else who's willing to pay the prices associated with doing business in Australia who'll come along and pick up the leases. Heck, if all else failed, there's still a chance that either the state or the commonwealth governments could go into the mining business themselves and start hauling in the wonga for all Australians, not just the shareholding few.

Australia has one of the most stable and productive economies in the world. We've managed to stay out of recession and actually had our economy growing for the majority of the time since we discovered that the US banking system had been playing ducks & drakes with the global money supply back in November 2008. We're a country which has a lot of resources available to exploit, we're also a country which is both tectonically and politically stable (we don't change governments with revolutions, we use elections instead) with a culture which is remarkably phlegmatic on a global scale (last reported riots were in Cronulla, back in 2005). When a company sets up a mining venture here, they don't have to factor in costs like bribes, armed guards, private armies, bodyguards for executives, or similar. They can generally rely on a lot of cooperation from both state and federal governments. We have a skilled workforce (even if it is a bit small for the demand being put on it at present). We have very good quality infrastructure, and we're willing to put money toward making it better (for example, the National Broadband Network project which is currently ongoing, as an effort to make it possible for just about everyone in the country to access high speed internet). If a mining company sets up business in Australia, they're going to get a good return on their money - mining here is nowhere near as marginal as, for example, farming.

They're just not going to get to keep all of it. We're going to ask for our share, in the form of wages, taxes, and so on.

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Current Mood: somewhat incredulous somewhat incredulous
All right, Orac, where did you put it?

I want my "My recent Documents" menu back. It was right there on the start menu in WinXP, so I could be working on a document hidden about six layers deep in the directory structure, and go straight back to it. No need to create shortcuts on the desktop, no need to have multiple copies for ease of access - just click on a link in a menu, and back I went to the document I was working on yesterday (provided, of course, that I hadn't done something daft like clearing out the menus).

Windows 7 doesn't appear to have that. So in order to get back to the stuff I'm working on, I have to chase them through the directory system every single fscking time. Instead of just having the "My Documents" folder sitting open to the top level so I can look just about anywhere in my rather convoluted hierarchy of things and bits and pieces, I have to damn well be paging back and forward and round about in circles. It's irritating.

I want my "My Recent Documents" menu option back. Very much.

I'd also like to be able to have the icons on the desktop a little smaller, since they're currently bloody huge. 7 icons to the short side of the screen? Really, Microsoft? This is with things at their smallest resolution, too. Not fun. I don't WANT my desktop covered over with cutesy little pictures of shortcuts to every single damn thing. Seriously, each of those shortcuts is approximately 4 times the size of the XP version; on a screen with better technology than the previous laptop, and with a much better graphics card, why am I suddenly looking at the Large Print edition of Windows?

Actually, comes to that, with a better processor, a better graphics card, and a whole heap of newer hardware, why am I suddenly looking a drastically less screen real estate in the first flippin' place? I want to be able to read PDF files, thanks, without having to print the fsckers out at great expense. This means I don't want to have to be constantly scrolling back and forth and hither and yon in order to view the top and the bottom of each column. Seriously, things keep up at this rate, I'm going to be buying another monitor just so I can have it in portrait orientation to read documents on.

I want Windows XP back. Windows 7 sucks.

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Current Mood: cranky cranky
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