Friday, December 31, 2010


It's the end of the year! =D

Happy New Year to everyone tomorrow and best of luck for it! I'm not sure how much blogging I'll do in January, but I'll try to keep up. I'm mostly going to be getting fit and healthy in preparation for the wedding so there will be a lot of cycling and other such activities.

Be merry, celebrate, and dont' diet until the 2nd of January! =D

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More bikey goodness!

So as part of a more complete lifestyle change, I've been kitting out my bike a little to make myself as likely as I can possibly be to take it instead of the car.

To begin with, I got mudguards, a rack, and a basket. Basket is excellent as far as carrying my little backpack/handbag thing, or the cross-bar converter thingo if I've driven it to the park and forgotten to take it off before getting from the carpark to the bike track (I also got the converter thingo, in case you hadn't guessed).

So that's recreational riding taken care of. Now, I also need my bike to be something that is useful to me in more domestic circumstances. For instance, if I either want to buy groceries to begin with or remember that I need them in a very sudden and unplanned way as I drive past the shops. Under such circumstances, I'm less inclined to have brought a backpack with me purely as a just-in-case measure. I just don't think in those terms.

So, I got myself a set of fold-out panniers which start off looking like this:

They sit nicely on the rack on the rear of my bike, and don't get in the way while I'm cycling. In the central compartment I have a few protein bars (in case of rides that are unexpectedly long or vigorous), a first aid kit (in case of sudden crash, which is more or less inevitable given that this is me we're talking about), and a puncture repair kit. I can also fit my wallet, phone, and keys in there in case I don't want to carry my handbag thing but don't want to be without keys and ID. And in case I don't want them rattling around the basket on the front of my bike.

When unfolded, the panniers look like this:

Heaps of space for stuff like groceries or a change of clothes (if, for instance, I'm cycling to my Oolon's place).

I am now set to cycle for any reason other than incredibly large distances.

I finally found a water bottle with a cap that covers the mouthpiece and which fits in the cage thing (being a ladies' bike, there isn't a lot of room for large water bottles, but panniers and basket will take care of that on planned long trips) as I'm stupidly paranoid about putting things of questionable cleanliness in my mouth (infer from that what you will), and today I bought a mini pump in case I get a flat tyre. It also has a pressure gauge, which is kind of cool.

I still need a rear light that can be seen past the panniers and some reflective clothing so that I can ride home from Oolon's place after dark, but that will hopefully happen before days get too short. In the mean while, the worst case scenario is that I leave my bike here and ask for a lift home so that I can get to work on time the next day.

So yeah! I have now set my bike up so I have very little excuse for not taking it places :-) Hooray!

Monday, December 27, 2010

More female TMI.

I want to rave at you all about how brilliant the Mooncup is. You're also about to learn a few things about my own anatomy.

I got one a few days ago, and it arrived right in the middle of a period I wasn't expecting to have (I've been avoiding them like the plague and was hoping to never have one ever again), but it became clear that I would have them at least occasionally (I forget to take the pill when I'm really sick, and apparently my body is only willing to go without bleeding for 6-8 weeks).

So, I ordered this thing after a friend of mine spent a lot of time raving about how awesome it is.

It is f'ing brilliant. It doesn't leak like tampons do, it can handle clots like tampons don't (stupid endometriosis), and it's reusable so I don't have to panic about running out of them. It can also be used before a period, so if you're expecting one at some point in the next three days and have a beach day tomorrow, then you don't have to worry about starting to bleed while at the beach. The Mooncup will take care of it.

It can also be used overnight. Unlike tampons, you're not going to get TSS so you can sleep comfortably without staining your sheets or ending up in ICU. There's also the fact that it sits lower than a tampon, which is great for me because tampons were very, very uncomfortable against my cervix. I'm not sure whether that was the result of the endometriosis or the retroverted uterus (which I've also got; have a diagram).

Getting it in and out takes practice and removing it is less comfortable than inserting it. I recommend using KY jelly or some other water-based lube for insertion because it just slides in, pops open and you're away. It's also good if you're new to using it and tend to tense up, because tense vaginal muscles make it more difficult to use.

I'm thrilled. If I have a daughter, she's getting one of these as soon as she hits puberty and she can start using it as soon as she feels ready to (these things are good for about a decade, or until you give birth so there won't be any rush if she's timid about it).

I've inserted (haha, pun) three small ads for it on my site because that's how awesome it is. One for the distributor in the UK, one in the US, and one in Australia.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Seasons Greetings!

Happy Holidays to everyone! Whatever your religious views, I hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends. There is so little time to spend with family in this day and age that we should take the opportunities that come our way, no?

So! Jingle the bells, hang the holly and have a roaring good time with the mulled wine! =D

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I forgot to write anything for today! Oh dear.

Sincerest apologies!

Monday, December 20, 2010


Well, it's the first day of the Summer holidays and I've survived my 2nd year of teaching :-) And I'm staying at the same school next year, which is kind of awesome!

This year has been HUGE. A lot has changed, all of it for the better (even when it was painful). Now I'm starting the Summer holidays, a week out from Christmas, and with new-found freedom! I'm looking forward to many things:
  • Weekend picnics
  • Time to read books (thinking about getting some Tad Williams; I hear he's good)
  • More frequent cooking (tiredness gets in the way)
  • More sleep (to get rid of the tired so I can cook!)
  • Spontaneous dinners out
  • Spontaneous trips to varous parts of my city
  • Regular cycling 
  • Attempting to ride all the way into the city from my university (roughly 20km)
  • Successfully riding into the city my university (it may take an entire day, and I may need a thorough wash afterward!)
Basically, I'm looking forward to spontaneity, fitness and relaxation :-)

Also, this is my new bike! =D Innit pretty???

I have added a rack at the back, mudguards and a basket at the front :-) I call her Arien, a Sun angel invented by Tolkien. Had there not been a kid in one of my classes called Marko, I'd have been extremely punny and called the bike "Marko Apollo". Arien is nicer, though.

Friday, December 17, 2010


As a teacher, you need to be able to think on your feet.

This has become a rather common exchange for me:

Anyone who's been in the business knows that this kind of accusation isn't limited to skin colour, and actually doesn't depend on the child's skin colour at all. A kid could be paler than I am and still claim racism because they're black! I'm not kidding, it has happened (though not to me, personally).

The only thing you can do under these circumstances is have a retort handy. Like this one*, which actually got me high-fives from a few of the boys:

*Name changed to protect the guilty

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quincy's Cooking Adventures: Cooking with Quincy (and friend)

I have a friend I used to sometimes cook with. These days, we don’t get to do this very often. We both have unusually busy schedules which results in conflicting dinner times and locations.
But when we do cook together, we’re like a well-oiled machine. Things just kind of flow, and I’ve had a 3rd party try to join in and be both mesmerised and utterly lost by the way things usually go.
For instance, one of us, call her A, will be stirring while the other (B) is chopping. B will say “Utensil!”. A will look over, see what B is trying to do, figure out which utensil is needed, figure out how safe it is to leave her stirring. She will then either leave the stirring or figure out the best way to get utensil to A without stopping. Within 2-5 seconds, the correct utensil will get passed to A, cooking will resume.
It's not so easy when you insert a 3rd person, but a lot of that might have to do with how tiny the kitchen is.
I guess this is one of the advantages of having ADHD: You make seemingly impossible connections and you make them fast, particularly if you are working on something that you are comfortable with (as opposed to being put on the spot, where your brain freezes totally). And when you get two ADD-ers together, performing a task that they are both good at and comfortable with, you end up with something amazing.
I like cooking with my friend.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Interpreting your child's report

With reports on their way within the next week, I thought I'd give parents a helpful guide to what their report might actually mean.

For most students, the reports are broken down into Achievements and Areas for Future Improvement.  This makes the report a bit tricky because what they achieved is often not to the best of their ability, so you may find the same thing mentioned in both sections.

I'll just run through some key phrases which parents may discover when reading through the Science comments. These prhases will be taken from both comment sections of the reports.

Billy has used references from a range of different sources
Billy used both Wikipedia AND Yahoo Answers.

Worked effectively with others
Billy did the entire project for his group.

Billy used appropriate language in his report
Billy didn't use a single swear word!

Billy has demonstrated some organisational skills
Billy always brought something to class. Occasionally it was his pet hamster.

Billy works effectively with detailed instructions from the teacher
I had to sit next to Billy for the duration of every lesson to keep him from climbing out the window.

Billy has developed a basic understanding of the concepts covered.
Billy can now say that he's heard of electricity and the word "particle".

Billy needs to ensure that all criteria have been met before submitting an assignment.
Billy needs to read the goddamned instructions or ask the flipping teacher for help if he's not sure. Getting the teacher to actually look over a draft of the assignment before it's due would be amazing.

Billy can describe concept x when given help.
Billy has a memory like a sieve.

Billy has shown a variety of interests
Billy has discovered girls.

Billy is a unique and remarkable individual
Billy is in serious need of psychiatric assessment.

I hope this helps :-)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hypocrites, liars and charlatans! The Lot of them!

I'm angry about the Wikileaks fiasco. I'm angry because politicians who condemned China for trying to censor Google are now shouting for the arrest of a man who runs the organisation which published their own government's documents.

I'm angry that the Australian government is so pissweak that it will not defend one of its own citizens against calls of "treason"  where none has been committed or against the calls for his assassination.

Go to the GetUp site, and please sign the petition. If you have the means, please donate for the full-page ads that are planned for the New York Times and the Australian newspaper.

I hate hypocrisy, dishonesty and injustice. I hate them most when they are prepetrated by people who are supposed to represent country and its values. When it's people who are powerful and will be listened to by a significant number of those they represent. Lets not allow this to continue.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Statistics: You're Doing it Wrong.

A lot of people don't really understand statistics, and it leads to all sorts of trouble. I get very tired of people quoting numbers and percentages that they've read in the paper while clearly not having a clue as to what they're actually talking about. Papers won't actually explain things properly either because that would make the story a whole lot less dramatic.  I'm hoping to clear some of that up here with a couple of examples of commonly misunderstood statistical talk.

1) Taking drug x increases your risk of cancer by 80%
Hearing this, a lot of people will immediately stop taking drug x, thinking that their chances of getting cancer from this stuff is now hugely amplified.
The actual fact is that it might not be. Lets assume that your probability of getting cancer at some point in your life is 1%.
80% of 1% is 0.8%. So, an increase of 80% means your probability of getting cancer is now 1.8%. Proportionally, this is significant. If your probability is already high, then you're in strife. But in real terms, if you are not already in a high risk group, you don't have all that much to worry about.
It's also why I assume some people use the term "percentage points", so that if probability has gone from 20% to 30%, it has gone up by 10 percentage points. It has also gone up by 50%.
2) How "averages" work in general
The "mean" is the biggest problem where these are concerned, and is the one most people take as what is normal. It is calculated by adding up each bit of data and then dividing your answer by how many bits there are.
When it comes to averages, it is unwise to only look at this one average. For example:
10 people are in a room. 9 of them will earn a salary of $40k this year. The 10th person is a CEO who will earn $4million. The average salary of the room is $436k per year, which is more than 10 times what most of the people in the room earn.
The data is skewed, and therefore not an accurate representation. This is why it is important to note the median (middle value) and mode (most frequent value), and to also look at your minimum and maximum data points so that you have a better idea of how the data is actually spread out.

The useful thing about the median is that it divides the population into two equal halves. So if you had people getting scores ranging from 0 to 100 and your median was 10, this means that half the people got less than 10 as their score. That's not very good...
There are also things called "quartiles". So they show you the quarters of your data. So if the lower quartile for the above info was 7, it means that a quarter of your people scored less than 7 and a quarter scored between 7 and 10. If your upper quartile is 95, then a quarter of your test subjects scored 95 or more (which is actually pretty good) and a quarter got between 10 an 95 (which is a heck of a range).
Medians and quartiles are a really good way of showing how data is spread out.

As far as simple representations go, I really like box and whisker plots. As far as representing data goes, I find them extremely useful: When you line up all the scores in order from smallest to largest, they show you the highest value, the lowest value, the middle value, and two values in between.
Snooty McSmugbox. The Box with Whsikers!

For example, let's say I have test scores for a class of 31:
Highest score: 90%
Lowest score: 10%
6 kids got exactly 30%
3 kids got exactly 34%
7 kids got 62%
13 kids got 74%

Here is the BW plot:

 Each section represents a quarter of my class. Half my kids got 62% or more, which is pretty good. More than half my kids got 50% or over (remember that the median splits the class into two equal halves), which is also not bad.

I think that they're pretty cool :-)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Love: What it is, and when to know if it isn't

Having posted recently on how tumultuous my relationship with  my mother was (while we still had one; it’s been several months since we’ve spoken), I’d like to discuss abusive relationships in general.
From the Reach Out website, these are the signs of an abusive relationship:
  • Checking on you all the time to see where you are, what you're doing and who you're with.
  • Trying to control where you can go and who they can see (this includes telling you they don't like/trust/are jealous of your friends for whatever reason; making feel you bad about hanging out with your friends/family)
  • Accusing you without good reason of being unfaithful or flirting.
  • Isolating you from family and friends, often by rude behaviour.
Put downs
  • Putting you down, either publicly or privately by attacking how smart you are, your looks or capabilities.
  • Constantly comparing you unfavourably with others.
  • Blaming you for all the problems in the relationship and for their own behaviour toward you ("I only got mad because you kept perving at that other girl/guy!" - especially if you weren't actually perving)
Menace + threats
  • Yelling, sulking and deliberately breaking things that you value.
  • Threatening to use violence against you, your family, friends or even a pet.
  • Saying things like 'no one else will want you'.
The key thing is that these behaviours are not present all the time. Generally speaking, in an abusive relationship, if it is good then it is very very good. There is joy and laughter, gifts, surprise dates in new places, strawberries covered in chocolate; the kind of stuff movies are made of. The other person is sweet and gentle and warm. When it is good, it can seem absolutely perfect. It seems like the most loving relationship in the world.

This can often cloud the bad things. 

"But he loves me... He just got angry because I was tactless and that's why he shouted and said nasty things. I'll just be more careful about how I say things next time."

"She loves me - I know she does because she's so wonderful all the time. She just gets frustrated when I do things wrong. She doesn't mean it when she puts me down, and she always apologises afterward..."

"She's just insecure because she's had a hard past. She's jealous of my friends now, but she'll get better when she realises that I do really love her and that she doesn't need to be jealous. Then she'll stop being angry when I want  a night out with 'the boys'. "

"He's just trying to look after me. He doesn't want me being felt up by strangers in a crowd, and that's fair enough I guess. Maybe I shouldn't go to that concert after all..."
I’d like to say this very clearly: If you are being treated in such a shameful way and it never changes; if the other person shows no sign of being willing to alter themselves and take steps to make themselves better as well (because it's always a two-person job), it is not love. To quote the above website:
When you are in a healthy relationship, both individuals support each other, sharing the good times and helping each other through the tough ones.  When someone matters deeply to you, and those feelings of trust and respect are returned, it enables us to face the world with confidence.
Building and maintaining a healthy relationship needs the commitment from both of sides in order to work at it. But it is worth it, because in a good relationship, you feel good about your boyfriend or girlfriend, and good about yourself.
To stay with someone if they treat you in ways that make you feel insecure and unhappy is not to stay with them out of love.
To put someone down, say horrible things to them, threaten them, and still stay with them is not staying with them out of love. 

To keep saying bad things and taking them back but not actively working to change the behaviour is not showing love.

“Love” is not just a feeling; it is a verb. Whether it is romantic love, familial love, or love for a pet, you can claim to  love all you want but if you do not consistently show it in your actions then you are not loving the person.
“Love” is a two-way street. If only one person is trying to change themselves while the other continues to lay the blame, then they are not in a loving relationship. 
“Compromise” is not one-sided. Compromise requires meeting half-way to get the best possible outcome for both parties, and sometimes there can be no compromise. If it is a difference that will affect one or more parties negatively; if it will have a negative impact on the wellbeing of either party in the long run, the relationship should end.

If you find yourself in a relationship where the characteristics above are ever on display, seek help from someone you trust. If you're not sure whether you're in one, talk to someone about it. Talk to a friend. A teacher. A family member. Your doctor. Anyone, just talk to them, as they may be able to see something you haven't. Don't be afraid that they'll judge you or that you'll look like a failure if your relationship isn't perfect or happy; appearances are a bad reason to be in a relationship anyway.

I hate the phrase “true love conquers all”. There are things love shouldn’t need to conquer. There are some things that, if it really were “true love”, wouldn’t exist to be conquered in the first place. Disney can get stuffed.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our consumerist lives

Shopping is a pretty big part of our lives. Most often, when thinking of somewhere to go, places that come up as ideas are shopping strips and shopping centres. I've heard a lot of grumbling in the past about how people really should find something else to do. See a film. Read a book. Have a picnic. Go bowling. Etc etc.

But I had a think, and I realised something: Window shopping is probably the cheapest and simplest form of entertainment you can get.

There are no entry fees, like for cinemas or bowling alleys. If you're going to a large centre, there's no worry about the weather going wrong and spoiling your lunch. You don't need to plan ahead a great deal, and if you don't actually buy anything you've only paid for getting there and maybe some food and drink (though nothing stops you bringing  your own to those places, either).

Now, the weather thing may well be a HTFU scenario, but in reality no one wants to be out in unpleasant conditions if there is another option, even if that option is your lounge room floor. But that is still not ideal, as you're back in the house which you wanted to escape in the first place.

To conclude: I don't t hink that shopping as entertainment is such a bad thing, as long as one is aware of their spending and why they went shopping in the first place.

Answers to Friday's quiz!

Flat surfaces:

  • 6 bookshelves
  • 1 floor
  • 2 levels of the TV stand
  • 2 levels of coffee table
  • The top of my pile of papers
  • 1 foot stool
  • 1 piano stool
  • 1 piano
  • The top of the DVD shelves
  • The top of each box next to the cabinet (3 surfaces)
  • 2 levels of cabinet
Total = 19

There are seven which ones I had already taken advantage of :-)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pop Quiz!

Question: How many flat surfaces can YOU see?
Bonus Question: How many have I already taken advantage of?
Answers at the bottom of Monday's blog!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What I've been doing!

So, I'm back from my break :-) I have not been sitting idle! Here's a brief rundown of what's been happening:

1) Writing reports.

Report-writing is boring and painful business. It's as bad as marking, quite frankly. The worst part is when you think you're finished and then discover that you have to read through all the reports you've written because the comment bank you used included stuff about topics you haven't actually covered...

2) Marking.

Kind of has to happen before you can write reports... Also painful and boring.

3) Weekend away with my sweetheart

We went to Bendigo in country Victoria for a weekend :-) It was lovely. Totally unstructured, so we did as we pleased. Read books, walked around the town, relaxed in the spa. Pure romance :-)

We also stopped in a smaller town called Malmsbury to see a village market. There were jams and preserves, wines, beers, hand-crafted jewellery. The gardens were also amazingly beautiful.

It was a fantastic weekend, and just what we both needed.

I'm now back in the real world and hopefully blogging regularly again!