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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Currently Reading: "Simulation" by Jean Beaudrillard.
I am strongly in agreement with Bucky Barnes regarding the readability and sense-making ability of post-modern French philosophes. That is all.
(Longer version: Baudrillard occasionally surfaces to breathe the cool air of making sense, then dives back into the morass of incomprehensibility again. This is very exhausting for the casual reader who is just looking for some decent fscking quotes to add to a 1200 word essay about reproduction and replication (in the semiotic/post-modern sense) in "Planet of the Ood" so she can seem as though she's got at least some philosophical and theoretical backing for her thesis statement. On the bright side, he appears to have predicted Donald Trump's presidency some thirty-three years ahead of time.)
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The Deconstruction of the Welfare State
( Essay under the fold )
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Unused Tutorial Question Answers
This week, I'm going to be using some answers I wrote to tutorial questions for a class (Introduction to Cultural Studies). We didn't use this work in the tutorial, so I figure I may as well recycle it. There'll probably be a few of these along the way.
So, the questions were:
* What do think about Elvis? (Note down your impressions.)
* What do you know of him? What is your first impression when recollecting him? Why do you think he is such a well-known individual?
* Consider the following song, "Elvis Presley Blues" (by Gillian Welch). How does it present a different picture to well known representations of Elvis in Vegas?
( Here's my answers, under the fold )
That's what I say.
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Meg's Fanfiction Likes and Dislikes - Male Pregnancy, aka Mpreg
This is another one I'm not fond of. Mostly because of the sheer level of biological ignorance the writers generally demonstrate.
I should give some background here. My mother was trained as a midwife, and by the time I was twelve, I was reading her old midwifery textbooks (for want of anything more interesting in the house). I also had a strong interest in human anatomy and physiology and how people worked from early childhood. So, I know a bit more about the ways that pregnancies can go right and wrong than the average punter. It leaves me with more than a few prejudices in the matter, and it means for me, mpreg requires a far greater degree of suspension of disbelief than usual.
( Essay below fold )
The best mpreg fics I've seen are the ones which basically take the position it's a stupid premise to begin with, and run with the sheer crackfic comedy of the whole notion of conception in the first place. In Final Fantasy VII, there's tirsynni's Always Use Protection, which basically takes things a cracky step further and winds up with a cross-species pregnancy induced by tentacle sex (by which point it's clear the whole thing is not intended to make any sense whatsoever, and the author is just writing for the giggles); there's also mystiri1's The Family Way, which addresses the whole question of where the egg comes from, and how it gets into the male person in the first place (and is equally cracky by the end).
In conclusion, I should point out this is why I don't like mpreg, and generally won't read it unless it also comes with the "crackfic" tag attached. I'm not saying other people shouldn't write it, read it, or like it, but again, if you're sharing a fandom with me (Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Marvel Cinematic Universe), please, please tag and warn on this one - or failing that, do your research, do comprehensive research, and start your research by ignoring the romance of pregnancy as delivered via the advertising industry.
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Meg's Fanfic Likes And Dislikes - Alpha/Beta/Omega Dynamics
I'll come right out and say I'm not fond of this one unless it's done particularly well and with a lot of thought involved.
( Essay below fold )
Now, all of the above are basically the reasons why I don't read A/B/O - I'm not trying to dictate to anyone else, and I'm not going to attempt to stop anyone else from either reading or writing A/B/O fic. If you do write it in any of the fandoms I'm reading in (Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, and Marvel Cinematic Universe) the most I'd ask is you label it clearly, perform your research, and do your world-building properly.
[EDIT 6.42pm WST (GMT+8) 28 JAN 2018: I was reminded of another A/B/O fic I can handle. See my comment below for details.]
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Update 20 MAY 2017
This week's fun thing was starting to play Möbius Final Fantasy on my tablet. I'd originally got interested reading about it on Steam, and tried downloading it for the PC, but got a message saying "this isn't available for your platform" (presumably the PC version doesn't work on Windows 10?). So I decided, sod this, I'll get it on the tablet instead.
( Ramble/review of FFM beneath )
Other than that: winter continues apace - it started raining yesterday, and is forecast to keep raining for most of the next week or so. I've regained a lot of my spoons from the past few weeks - I'm back to cooking again, and I'm starting to get back into the routine of housework. Given we're forecast to have a rental inspection at some point this month, that's just as well, really. Oh, and one of the cabinet doors for the cupboard beneath the sink fell off - the weight of the door pulled the screws holding the upper hinge out of the wood they were anchored in. Given the doors have been falling out of alignment for a while now, to the point where closing them meant lifting them up and into position, I wasn't particularly surprised when it happened. Again, this place doesn't appear to have had any serious maintenance or non-urgent repair work done since my age was in single digits, so it's not surprising that when you put a couple of hefty doors onto a door-frame which is designed for something much lighter, the blasted things work themselves off in less than a year.
(For my non-Australian readers: welcome to the joys of renting in Australia, where asking the landlord for maintenance on the property can be essentially asking to find a new landlord - landlords evicting tenants for requesting maintenance is a known Thing here. Judging from the string of names - never the same name twice - we've noticed on the mail coming into the mailbox, it seems rather unlikely most tenants in this place stayed longer than about the standard six to twelve months of a fixed-term tenancy. Oh yes, that's another thing about renting in Australia - maximum fixed-term tenancy is twelve months at a stretch).
We're still continuing with the Caterpillar Cull, although the numbers are dropping somewhat. Their latest point of entry into the house is the bathroom, apparently through a finger-width gap in the skirting board down near the bathroom cabinet. Himself sprayed the area with surface spray yesterday, so we're going to see whether that works as a deterrent (it seems to, up to a point, in my room) and just keep picking them up and drowning 'em. These past couple of days, it's mostly been in the twenties per cull, so there's that. I've wound up buying a separate dustpan and brush set for the front verandah, so I can scrub the caterpillar guts off the existing one for inside the house.
We've also had the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos coming by for their final shot at the under-ripe berries from the Cape Lilacs - which means the trees, which are starting to drop their leaves for winter, are starting to look just a tad bedraggled as a result. I hauled up a sucker from one of the front Cape Lilac trees earlier in the week, and I'm going to have to go and have a look around for any others.
Uni continues apace. I have one essay to finish, one five hundred word rationale and reflection to write, and a 1500 - 2000 word short story, personal essay, or feature article to write. The essay and the rationale/reflection are both due Monday week (29th of May), the short story is due the following week (8th of June). All of which is within my ability to do in the allotted time, so I'm not particularly worried about it. The more irritating item is being expected to find a feature article from a newspaper for my "Introduction to Writing" tutorial on Tuesday - mostly because I tend not to buy the newspaper on the grounds of it not being worth the money one spends on the wretched thing. Given the standard of Australian print journalism these days, I rather doubt there's going to be a feature article in the wretched thing anyway. Wonder whether my tutor would accept something from the online Grauniad - I know they do feature articles - quite a few of them, in fact.
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Parents, Teachers, Schoolkids and The Homework Thing
Just been reading through some back issues of "The Secret Teacher" on teh Grauniad website, and one of the issues which comes up repeatedly is "homework" - essentially, teachers think it's No Big Deal, parents either complain there's too much, or too little, and the kids always think there's too much.
( More under the fold )
As so often occurs, what truth and peace there is in the whole argument lies somewhere in between the extremes of it - or at least within the overlapping spaces in the argument's Venn diagram. Homework and home study skills are useful - but they're useful in the same way algebra, geometry, geography, and learning the finer points of diagramming sentences wind up being. Yes, they're massively useful if you're going into education as a profession; they're peripherally useful if you're thinking of going into an area where you'll need the practice at self-motivation, goal-setting, and meeting self-imposed targets. But for the vast majority of people, they're skills you learn in school, for school, and never need again throughout your working lifetime.
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About "Should" and Mental Health
In the interests of my continuing mental health, I've had to banish a few words and phrases from my vocabulary. One of them is "should".
"Should" is a word which has disappointment built-in from the start. It's a word used to talk about ideal situations, ideal results, ideal worlds. As such, to someone like me with an anxiety disorder, it's essentially poison for the psyche. Because, you see, one of the things at the core of any anxiety disorder is this: we want the world to be perfect. Perfection implies control.
So to someone with an anxiety disorder (and this also includes the vast majority of people with depression, since the two conditions tend to be co-morbid to an astounding degree) a "should" is not a vague ideal to be used as a general directional indicator. Instead, it is a definite goal, which needs to be achieved (in order that the world be perfect). So phrases like "you should know better" or "you should be able to do better than that" or "I shouldn't need to tell you" and so on aren't just expressions of regret for one single instance - they are clear indicators that we have failed on a comprehensive level to achieve the goals set for us. The world is imperfect and it's All Our Fault.
As you can guess, that kind of feeling doesn't do much for anyone's anxiety levels.
Then there's the other kind of "should" - the ones we tell ourselves, the ones which come with the invisible tag of "but I won't". "I should stay on this diet... but I won't". "I should Clean All The Things... but I won't". "I should do this disagreeable task... but I'm not gonna!". Again, not only is the world imperfect, and not only is this All Our Fault, but we're also unable to even rely on ourselves to do things. How hopeless are we?
(Something else which doesn't do much for anyone's anxiety levels).
However, banishing "should" (and its close cousin, "ought to") from your mental vocabulary is a hard thing to do at times. For a start, there's all the externally imposed "shoulds" - the expectations of parents, partners, friends, children, teachers, employers, co-workers, advertisers, marketers, manufacturers and so on. ("You should buy $PRODUCTNAME!") Plus there's all the internal ones, yelled at us by our jerk!brains on constant loop - including the ones which come up as part of the memory tapes bringing up old humiliations to dance on the stage of the Grand Olde Embarrassing Recollection to remind us of what we "should" and "shouldn't" be doing, or have done.
What's the solution to all of this? Well, the one which worked for me was basically stepping back from what I "should" be doing, and asking myself "what, realistically, can I do?" This one works particularly well for the memory tapes. Asking myself "okay, what am I able to do about this problem/issue, right here, right now?" tends to make the tapes suddenly grind to a glitching halt - because usually the answer is "nothing". I can't fix past mistakes from the present. I can make an effort to alter future behaviour, but other than that? There is literally nothing I can do.
This works well for other people's expectations of you as well. I have a lovely little icon (created by Copperbadge a while ago) which reads "Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles". If other people want you to do something, if they think you "should" be able to do it, ask yourself: "can I do this?" Are you physically, socially, mentally capable of performing the task they're asking? (This includes such things as "do I have the skills needed?", "do I have the available spare capacity?", "do I have the available spare time?" and, of course, "do I actually want to do this?"). If the answer is "yes", then perform the task. If the answer is "no", then tell them so - give reasons if the person asking is a reasonable person (unreasonable people don't deserve reasons for your answers, because unreasonable people can't or won't be reasoned with).
By bringing things back from the ideal world of "should" to the actual world of "can I, am I, do I, is this" you wind up being a lot more realistic about your own capabilities, and a lot less prone to stressing yourself out over things which are outside your own control.
 You'll note one of the apparent "goals" being set there is fully functional human telepathy. Nobody said the goals of a "should" were ever either realistic or achievable.
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[Inspired by: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-11/abbott-defends-indigenous-communities-lifestyle-choice/6300218 - particularly the comment thread]
I was born in Western Australia, and I lived most of my life until I was about 27 in the south-eastern suburbs of Perth. I then moved to Canberra, in the ACT, and lived there until about mid-2006, when my partner and I moved back to Perth.
I hated it in Canberra. The land wasn't right. The way the sun rose wasn't right. The way the sun set wasn't right. The water wasn't the same. The seasons were all wrong. The city was put together strangely. I never felt settled, never felt "at home". I felt displaced.
I went to London for a month in August 2002, on holiday. I felt more "at home" in London during that one month than I had in three years living in the ACT, despite the different hemisphere, different latitudes, different everything.
I went back to the ACT, and lived for another four years in exile, before returning to Perth, Western Australia. Since then, I have come to wonder whether the profound feeling of "home" I feel living here is akin to the Indigenous notion of "country". Whether that horrible feeling of being displaced, of being exiled, is what they feel when they're forced by circumstance or government policy to move away from their country. I know that for me, songs like "My Island Home" now have a whole new meaning, because I hear them through the filter of my experience living in Canberra.
This is part of why I feel angry and upset about the WA state government's decision to close a number of remote communities. I would not want to push that feeling of displacement, of always being in the wrong place, on anyone else. It would be a wrongness, an evil, a wicked thing to do. I am angry the government of Western Australia is doing this in my name. I am upset the Premier, Colin Barnett, is implicitly claiming he has the support of white Western Australians to do this. His government does not have my support, or my consent.
These days I'm living in the south-western corridor of suburban Perth. The sun rises in the correct way, over the right hills. The sun sets properly, over the ocean. The ocean is there, within reach - I'm about twenty minutes drive from the beach, if that. The seasons flow correctly, from dry heat, to stormy heat, to gradually cooling dry, to cold and wet, to gradually warming and drying, to dry heat again. The city is the way it should be, the right mix of architectural styles and geographic features. I'm home. I would say I'm in my country, and I would challenge anyone to uproot me from it.
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Sometimes, I'm a Bit Too Much Of A Packrat
I can see I'm going to need to clear things out a bit more often.
I've just done a bit of a sort through of my various "PC media" storage boxes. What I discovered would probably be invaluable to any electronic archivist, or archaeologist of late 1990s PC miscellanea. The total included:
* Two plastic bags worth of PC magazine discs, dating back at least 10 years or so.
* Various install CDs for outdated versions of Linux
* Two Australian phonediscs (phonebook on disc), probably from the late 1990s.
* Various MS software designed for Windows 3.11 (Encarta 95, MS Ancient Lands, and the tragically misnamed MS Works).
* Game CDs for games which came with my first personal PC (bought back in 1995 - these are games which were designed to run on Windows 3.11) as well as games purchased subsequently. Some of them are compilation CDs of multiple games from back in the bad old days of 5.25" floppy disks - thousands of games on the one CD because they were designed to fit into Kb of memory, not Mb.
* Manuals for most of these game CDs.
* Driver CDs for hardware which is now obsolete (or at least no longer in my posession).
* Demos of games which never made it to mass market (or if they did, bombed badly).
As I say, a digital archaeologist, electronic archivist, or computing historian may be able to make some use of these. I'm going to see which of the games I can get to run on the current PC, which ones the antivirus rejects as malware (for some reason, AVG doesn't like certain bits of the Sims 2, and it also pings up Settlers IV as malware as well), which ones aren't worth the disk space (probably most of them) and which ones still interest me after all these years.
The rest... well, the rest I'll probably bin. If there are any archaeologists, archivists, or historians who are interested in this stuff, do let me know.
( Footnotes below fold )
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Musings of a Chronic Accumulator
I'm an accumulator. I accumulate things. Every so often, I go through the pile of things I've accumulated and clear out the excess. And every time I do this, I think "I should be more organised".
Today, as part of my standard thirty minutes of household chores, I cleared out the backlogged accumulation of glass jars in one of the kitchen cupboards. I pulled out about a half-dozen largeish glass jars with lids that I know I can find a use for, as well as all the small spice jars and the little dark glass ones that my medication used to come packaged in, and I put those into a plastic storage box. That about filled the box. Then I went through and started taking out all the other jars (and lids) and dropping them into our "items for the recycling" box. Once the "recycling" box was full, I emptied it into the recycling bin. I wound up making two trips to clear the backlog. Now, I have the storage box shoved into one corner of the shelf, and about a half-a-cupboard's worth of vacant space.
My next project is probably going to be the plastic stuff. Like everyone else who has any plastic storage stuff in their cupboards, my plastics store is a mess. So I'm going to have to do the standard sort through, find all the stuff, find all the matching lids, and figure out what I'm going to keep and what can be thrown out. I have a suspicion our recycling bin is going to be a tad on the over-full side next fortnight. My next project after that is likely to be the pantry.
Why am I doing this? Well, part of it is sheer irritation crystalised by the joys of having a rent inspection yesterday. Another part of it is realising that, to be honest, I can't find things in our kitchen. I know me. I know the way I work. If I can't find something when I want it, I get frustrated. If I'm frustrated, I get angry, and getting angry gets me depressed. So somewhere along the line, I have to take a step back and deal with the source of the frustration. At the moment, one of the sources of frustration is clutter.
I know why I have the clutter, too. I have the clutter because I'm coming out of a period of enforced poverty, where my instinctive reaction is to clutch onto everything that comes into the house with both hands, and attempt to save money wherever I can. I hoard things, and I'll buy up bulk and try to "save money" by attempting to reuse and recycle as much as possible. But the problem is, this hoarding is actually counter-intuitive, because I hoard so much stuff that I can't find anything. And if I can't find it, I can't use it. So how much money have I saved, really?
Something I need to keep in mind: if I keep something hanging around, but never use it, no matter what it is, it isn't cheap. It's expensive. It's taking up space, both physical and mental (the mental space is in the justification for why I'm keeping hold of it). If I buy food on special and wind up throwing it out because it passed its best-by date without being eaten, it was a waste of money. If I store something, and wind up buying three more of them because I can't find the original, again, it's a waste of money. Things are only economical if they're actually being used for a purpose. Otherwise, again, they're a waste of time, money, and brainspace.
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