Monday, December 5, 2011

Uuuuugh

- I had a big weekend as a chaser to a big couple of months
- I passed my physics course
- I'm now sick again

Uuuuugh.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas dreaming

My creative side is going a bit crazy at the moment. I decided that, given I couldn't find a nice one anywhere, I would make a topper for our Christmas tree. So I went into Riot to get some ideas and got a lot more than I thought I would!

I know how I want the topper to be constructed, so that's all planned out. Unfortunately, I walked past the shelves with all the felt on them. You see, I've made things from felt before and I really enjoyed doing it. So now I'm sitting there in the shop, looking at all those amazing colours and imagining all the stuff I could make from it!

I'm planning all sorts of Christmas decorations, and hopefully there will be photos! As soon as reports are done. I'm really not so keen on the report-writing thing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

AWOL again

No posts this week. Reports are due on Friday and I'm far too tired and busy and stressed.

See you all next week!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday dreaming

4 weeks left until the Summer holidays. Can't wait! I have so many plans.

There is the aforementioned gardening, the cycling (for fun rather than for getting to and from work!), a potential weekend away, Christmas with the family, NYE with friends, my birthday...

So much to do and enjoy! =D It will totally rock.

*bounces*

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Couchy goodness

Our couch is old. I inherited it from my former housemate who wasn't able to give it away to anyone else, and we just happened to need a couch.

This couch was so old and decrepit that you couldn't sit on it without at least two extra cushions, and even then you would get pins and needles in your legs if you sat in it for too long.

It is an old couch.

So, last week, I decided I'd had enough. I wasn't going to sit on this thing which was probably ruining my back and goodness knows which other aspects of my health along with it and I wasn't going to put up with it any more.

Now, we can't afford a new couch, so we took the old, worn and deformed cushions to a place which cuts custom foam and asked them to please replace it for us. So they did.

This couch is now AMAZING. We didn't get the most expensive, bouncy stuff (I think it's called endura-foam or something ridiculous like that and is guaranteed to outlast your couch); we went for the firm, medium-grade foam in the seat cushions and the cheap stuff in the back-rest cushions.

I can't begin to describe the difference. It is a beautiful thing to sit on. It still looks like utter crap without the throw over it, but it is so unbelievably comfortable!

I am utterly thrilled by this, and at the same time utterly freaked out at the gradual realisation of just how domesticated I've become!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gardening

I think gardening is going to be my new hobby this Summer. I actually have a garden that I can see and that I can use for entertaining, so I have reason to do something with it!

My parents were never particularly creative with their lawn space. They had a verandah which they used for drinking coffee on in Summer, and they had some grass that got mowed and a few plants around the edges. That was about it. Even barbecueing happened on the verandah.

I have no verandah, but I have fenced-off lawn which I absoluely intend to use!

I don't think the previous tenants really looked after it very well. It was mown when we moved in, but a lot of the soil has bare patches that mainly consist of clay (I've added gypsum to it but it may not have been enough) and a depressingly high proportion of the greenery is made up of weeds (those flat, dandylion things that just seem to take over).

So I've been weeding (combination of chemical and manual) and I've sown some lawn seed which I hope will take. I've also made little shelves on legs that I've hammered into the ground, against one of the walls, with the intent of putting lanterns there for evening entertainment.

I want to have a nice garden that I can sit in and have guests in, and I'm looking forward to working on it more :-)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Looking forward to Christmas

So for the first time in a number of years, I'm really looking forward to it. You see, working in retail kind of ruined it for me, and there were a number of factors at play:

1) Playing carols incessantly for over a month. This is a sure-fire way to annoy just about anyone that goes into your store. If not initially, then definitely by the time Christmas actually rolls around. If it doesn't drive your customers mad, it will drive your staff mad. There is no need to play carols for any more than the last two (maybe three, if you're really into the whole spirit thing) weeks leading up to it.

2) Playing the crap remix carols CD. On repeat. This one needs no elaboration.

3) Beginning to sell decorations in July. Not all stores do this, but I've seen it. In fact, selling decorations before November is utterly stupid and annoying and should not happen. It just makes the season less special.

4) Irate shoppers. If you are a Christmas shopper who has left all your present-buying until the last minute, then for heaven's sake don't take it out on the retail staff! They are already over-worked and stressed out. No, they cannot order more stock in for tomorrow because you missed out on the last toy due to your own tardiness, especially if tomorrow is already Christmas Eve. This is not the only toy sale that happens throughout the year, so for goodness' sake do some of your Christmas shopping earlier on in the year!

This is now the third year running that I have not had to work retail at Christmas. I have, as always, bought my presents early. I'm going to be avoiding shopps that are playing carols for as long as possible. I'll be spending Christmas day with my family.

I am, at last, looking forward to enjoying Christmas again!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We need more options.

In yet another fun rant about education in Victoria, I'd like to vent my spleen about how difficult it is to get rid of "problem children" in schools.

Politically incorrect though it may be, the simple fact is that some kids really are a problem. There are some students who are rude, nasty, and a bad influence on their peers. I have students who are generalliy nice and reasonably well-behaved. While their friend, the Problem Child, is away. As soon as that child turns up, the kid you were finally making some progress with forgets all that good behaviour and all those rewards and falls under this influence. You are back to square zero.

These Problem Children are the ones with no respect for authority, and not just that of the teacher. I've seen them lash out at co-ordinators and nothing short of calling the parents in is enough to make them behave, because they know that there isn't much we can do.

We can give lunch-time detentions, but they don't really care because once that's over, it's over. Back to normal.


We can give after-school detentions, but parents have to be given 24hrs notice. This is done by giving the student a letter to take home. I've found more of these letters ripped up and in the bin than I can count. I'm also quite used to the phenomenon of the student mysteriously being ill on the day that their detention is scheduled for. So this is not a credible threat, and not one which works well past about year 7.

We can suspend them, but the grounds have to be extreme. Students are well aware of how difficult it is. They can swear at teachers, be as rude as they like, say things that would get them questioned by police if they did it out on the street, and yet they get away with it in schools. So that threat doesn't work past about year 8.

Expelling students is nearly impossible. They cannot be expelled unless they can go to another school, and I've had a student say "What are you going to do! You can't expell me! No other school will take me!", and he was right.

We can't ask students to leave, because they can't leave unless they are at least 16 and have a trade or apprenticeship to go into.

You can't get them moved into a different class because classes are so damned full that there is no room for movement. So threatening to remove them from their friends doesn't work either.

The simple fact is that, if you have students who are not only poorly behaved but also savvy, you're pretty much stuffed and so are the students who could do so much better if they weren't being disrupted by these Problem Children.

We need more options. We need more consequences. We need to be able to actually send them off for intensive behavioural therapy, and have it be on-going.

The bottom line is that we need more support, because when you've had that kid shout at you, at other teachers, at school leaders, and then still have them show up in your class the next day, you start to lose hope. It's crushing to think that they can get away with abusing people in that way, and yet they do.

This needs to change.

Monday, November 14, 2011

No more kids, please.

In this next enstallment of what appears to be a series of rants about the education system here in Victoria, I'm going to get angry about the day before the Melbourne Cup.

We spend Cup Eve (first Monday of every November) babysitting because less than half the students show up. Those that haven't shown up are usually away on family holidays in anticipation of Cup Eve, but some students have parents who insist that they come to school.

You see, the parents send them to school because it's a school day. And it's a school day because parents send their kids to school. Or something.

But the bottom line is that, on this day every year, we have had to keep our massively reduced classes occupied from 9am until 3:30pm. We can't continue lessons as normal because our grouping systems are disrupted and we'd have to re-do anything we taught that day in the next lesson anyway. We can't book science pracs, plan tests, or anything of the sort. We can't even invent new groupings specifically for that day because we have no idea which students will be there and which won't.

So instead of being able to do something useful, like marking or planning or report-writing, we're sitting there keeping kids well-behaved and on task, whether that task is a worksheet or a video or a game. Instead of doing Professional Development (a requirement of teacher registration) or catching up on things we need to get done, we are looking after students who don't want to be there any more than we want them to be there.

I have, thankfully, had it confirmed by my local MP that this will be changing next year and going back to school councils deciding when the pupil-free days will be. What I'm left wondering is why, given that teachers were against having three of the four in term 1 to begin with, did they not just listen to us in the first place?

Still, at least it's been fixed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gorrilla in the making.

Dear Society,

Please realise that there is nothing "gross" or "disgusting" about body hair on women. I would very much like to stop worrying that I'll get judged by people (or even have to explain why it's not gross) because my legs don't look like a nine-year-olds and I happen to have a dark patch in each armpit.

Most sincerely,

Me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Reinventing the Wheel

"Reinvenging the wheel" is a very common phrase in teaching, and it's one that has now most definitely come up again in my school.

It appears that textbooks are being phased out, which is of concern for a number of reasons. The key two are that:
1) We have no guarantee that the new laptop system (which is being implemented next year; all students in some year levels will have their own laptop) will actually work, so removing textbooks removes a valuable backup plan
2) Textbooks are an incredibly useful tool for educating students and for keeping teachers from having to invent curriculum that is already there.

The key reason that was given for this change is this perceived notion of teachers exclusively teaching from the textbook, telling the students to read a section and then answer the questions.

Bollocks. Sheer, utter, bollocks. For one thing, the Science textbook we use is utter, usless crap. Half of it is badly explained and the other half is factually incorrect. It mostly ignores physics and what physics is in it is utterly dreadful because all the authors were primarily biology teachers.

So the book is only a vague guide on what we will be covering in the topic. It helps keep us on track and give us a visual guide as to where in the topic we are, the questions in it are often very useful for topic revision, and often they are excellent for getting students to actually read and interpret information. For them to learn to find useful bits of info and synthesise, rather than just regurgitating facts (the number of times I've had them complain about the answer not being directly in the text is staggering; I had to point out that hey do actually need to think about what they're reading and writing).

So yes, we use the book and we often get the students to answer the questions from it so it is great because we don't have to invent the questions ourselves. But it is also useful as far as practicals go (we only need to point the lab techs to the page in the book rather than having to write up all the materials ourselves).

Now, this is a useful kick in the pants because it is forcing the faculty to look at its resources and how to pool them, rather than having scattered unit plans and things all over the school and the staff network drive but it in no way makes up for the loss of this valuable resource.

Furthermore, I am insulted by the view of the leadership that we are doing nothing but textbook work. I don't know wich teachers they've been observing, but it sure as hell wasn't anyone I've worked with. This will now mean a lot of extra work over the next few months and a lot of stress, especially if there are technological failures of the kind we've had over the past two years.

I'm sorry guys, but you need a backup plan whenever you implement something new and untested, like this laptops-for-everyone scheme. I see no evidence of a backup plan for when hundreds of students try to all log on to a network at the same time - something that hasn't actually been tested yet.

Ultranet Training Day, anyone?

Monday, November 7, 2011

In Soviet Russia...

Here's how it's supposed to go:

- Teacher assigns task
- Student completes task
- Student gets rewarded

OR

- Teacher assigns task
- Student doesn't complete task
- Student suffers consequences

Somewhere along the line, a few of my students got the idea that this is not how it works. You see, they somehow think that if I let them do whatever they like, they will reward me by doing work. Yes, that's right. Them working is now a reward for the teacher.

After a student asked me if they could go sit in a different part of the learning space and was denied this request, he actually said "Fine then, I won't do any work!" and it's not the first time something like this has happened with students in this particular group.

How on earth did they get this idea? How many teachers would have had a cajoling attitude which gave students the impression that they can get away with this? How on earth are their parents bringing them up?

I find this quite alarming.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Life is CRAZY

So I've had a lot to do and very little time for blog-worthy stuff.

Since my last post, I have

- Found a new place
- Moved into it
- Had a heart procedure (very minor - it was keyhole and I was back on the bike in a week)

I am now preparing for my physics exam, which is on Monday (PANIC!!!) so the business doesn't really go away.

I'm going to try to start posting regularly again ASAP. I've got a post scheduled for Monday, so stay tuned!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You want to put it WHERE!?


I'm now onto the final of my three dealbrakers for taking a house: Location.

The key piece of property advice that one always hears is: “Location, location, location!” and it's a very important thing. You pay more for a good location, and that goes beyond just suburb (although the benefits of living in a good suburbs are significant).

Even when you've narrowed it down to the suburb you want, you still need to look at some of the finer points:

Is it on a main road? This can have several advantages, though you generally don't want a place that is. You have to consider your individual needs, and some roads are preferable to others. For instance, Oolon and I recently decided against a place on a main road, not just because it's on that road but also because of where on that road it is. The house wasn't near any official crossings and was also in an area with a median strip that included a waist-high rail, so I couldn't cross it illegally either.

Given that I do most of my travel by bike and that I need to cross the road in order to go in the right direction for my work, this rules out any property where it's particularly difficult to do that (at least until I start getting desperate to find a place).

You also need to consider things like ground elevation and drainage (avoiding flooding), whether the area is prone to bushfires (and whether it is worth the risk in your opinion), proximity to public transport and shops, etc etc etc. My rule here is that it be within cycling distance (about 10min by bike) so that I don't feel compelled to take a car. It also needs to be possible for both me and Oolon to cycle to our respective workplaces.

So yes, we are being fussy. You might even think us snobby! But there are some aspects of lifestyle which I'm not happy to give up as long as I can afford them financially.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

No bitchin' in the kitchen!

Following on from my previous post about looking for a place to rent, I'm now on to discussing Dealbreaker #2: The Kitchen.

Now, a kitchen doesn't have to take up half the house. It doesn't have to be completely new. But it does need to have a certain amount of bench space. It does need to look like it isn't falling apart. It really needs to not look grimey and like it's just waiting to sprout mould.

I'm talking about the difference between this:





And this:


For the sake of argument, lets ignore the fact that kitchen 1 has people actively using it. In that image, though, you can see that the oven isn't great. You can also see that the wall next to the oven/stove is damaged. The added shelf for the microwave just looks extremely... Cheap. Can't think of a better word for it. The second kitchen also has more bench space and a visible pantry. The surfaces are nicer. It doesn't look grubby.

Now, that first kitchen is not the worst I've seen. I've seen kitches with less than half the bench space and mould visible in the corners of the place. You could still work in a kitchen like that. But these two properties are charging about the same amount in rent.

I think the preference is pretty obvious.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

You need a ruddy big shotgun.

So, Oolon and I are on the hunt! For a place of our own! It's all very exciting and the ADHD-part of me that obsesses over things has latched on to one specific property that we viewed. The part of me that knows this is ADHD-related is doing its best to reassure the ADHD part that it's a lovely place while at the same time reminding it that we may not be offered it and to not be too upset if we don't get it.

So, I've now got something to blog about. I have, of course, thought about getting my own place before this week and have done some considering over what I would and wouldn't want in a property. I've narrowed down three or four deal breakers, and I'll talk about the first one today.

A landlord who cares about the property.

Don't get me wrong: I don't want someone who is obsessive about the place and wants everything exactly perfect and as they'd envisioned it from the start and can't handle a place looking lived-in. I wouldn't last a week with a land-lord like that!

But I do want someone who clearly gives a damn about something that they own. For instance, there's the first house that Oolon and I had a look at. It was spaceous, had wooden floors. A bit old, but potentially nice, despite the small kitchen (a topic which I will get to in a later post). What killed the deal for us wast the peeling ceiling. Well, not the peeling itself, but rather the response to the peeling ceiling. We asked the agent who opened the place about it, who reassured us that the leak which caused the problem had been fixed. She also told us that she didn't believe the landlord had any plans to fix the cosmetic damage, but that we could say on our application that we would only take the property "on condition that the ceiling was repaired". And that was just the most obvious problem with the place.


So we decided not to apply for the place. I want a house that I can be proud to live in and where it's easy to care about its upkeep. It's a lot harder to care a bout a place that is grimy and not nice to begin with, and I wouldn't want to live in a house that I don't feel good about at the outset.

Of course, there is the factor of previous tennants (some of whom are still occupying the place while it's being inspected), but I can look past that.

So, Landlords! Here's a tip: Show that you care about a place that you own, or you won't attract the sort of tennants who will care about your property.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oops.

So, this is a bit late. I was meant to post something yesterday.

Unfortunately, I am so exhausted from work and trying to learn physics at the same time that I'm just not feeling very bloggy.

I'll start posting again when I have something more interesting to say.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Finally, pics of my bike! (and some notes on female anatomy and saddles)

Ta-dah!!! Here she is!

That's my husband's bike in the background :-)

You'll have to forgive the quality of the photos; I took them in a hurry at Melbourne Central station with a camera that I'm unfamiliar with (borrowing my husband's while I try to figure out where my little one got to), so they're not as good as I'd normally like to take. But, I got to play with a different camera so that's always a good thing!

As you can see, it has the basket with the lining that I sewed for it a few weeks ago. Here it is from a different angle:


I also got a new seat for it about a week ago. I was finding that the seat which came with it was particularly uncomfortable when I leaned forward to go uphill. It basically came down to bunching of flesh in my groin. Not good. This seems to be caused by the fact that the original saddle rises slightly at the front:

My husband's seat: He has no problems with it (lucky person)
So when we went to the shop to get our bikes serviced, I asked about their selection of women's saddles and which might best deal with the issue. They recommended a saddle and suggested I try it. OH MY GOODNESS that thing was comfortable! I bought it on the spot. Here is a pic, for comparison:


The key differences are that this one is flatter, firmer, and has a "cut-out" in the centre of the seat, which you can't see from this angle. All in all, much more comfortable for a female body. There were, unfortuantely, a couple of trade-offs:

1) The tip of the seat isn't as tapered as the previous one, which will result in even greater wear on any pants that I have on while riding. This may be solved through thinner thighs (which I will hopefully get as I cycle more), but I may have to resign myself to cycling in cheaper, spare trousers until I find something even more suitable.

2) It's not as wide as my old saddle, which can theoretically be an issue given a woman's wider pelvis and the upright position of the bike. I haven't had any problems with it yet though (it's still a fair bit wider than a racing saddle), so I think it'll be fine.

I love my bike!

On a less fun note, it's time for me to go AWOL again. Full-time work plus a physics course plus a whole bunch of stuff I agreed to before I enrolled in said course is keeping me very busy and very tired, so I just can't guarantee I'll be able to blog regularly. I'll start blogging again weekly on September 5th, then see how I go until after exams.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Phillip Island

Phillip Island is one of those places that you need to visit if you go to Victoria. It's where you'll find the Penguin Parade, for one thing! A bit further away from the penguin parade is a place called The Nobbies, or Seal Rock. I didn't see any seals, but here are a couple of pics I took with my awesome new camera:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Way to freak me out.

I don't mind someone saying that they recognise me from a bike trail that we both cycle on. I have an unusual bike, so it's not all that surprising that someone would take notice.

It's when this happens, followed by a bitching session about dog owners, telling me how you've accidentally struck dogs, and then telling me that you don't care any more when I express sympathy for the animal...

THAT is freaky and the kind of thing which makes me avoid you for the rest of all eternity.

Also, I'm seeing the cardiologist on the 4th to discuss my tachycardia. Hopefully she'll be happy to perform the procedure that'll get rid of it for good. Wish me luck!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I am so awesome.

Earlier this month I went to a sewing workshop organised by a university club that I've been a member of since, well... University. It was meant to be a cloak making workshop, but you could make anything you liked, really.  So, I made a lining for my front basket!


This is the view from above.



This is from the back. I used twho ribbons to attach it to the hooks that go over my handlebars. The drawstring is theaded through the lining which folds over the top. Because the basket is narrower on the bottom, this will help keep the lining in place all around.


You can see here what I mean about it folding over. The drawstring is at the base of this flap. The shoe in the background isn't mine, by the way.

Of course, this being Winter, there's the slight issue of rain. I don't particularly want the contents of my basket getting soaked, nor do I want to risk it filling up with water. So, I decided that I need a lid, and I made one a few days later:



This is the view from the top. How pretty is that fabric! Got it on sale at Spotlight.



This is from the front, and those are my knees at the bottom of the picture. As you can see, the lid is made from fabric that is slightly wider than the top of the basket so it wraps around. I also used a drawstring to hold this one on:



So I now have two drawstrings at the back, and both the lid and the lining tie onto the hooks of the basket.




This is the view from the top, with the lid up. I used the same yellow fabric for the underside of the lid as I did for the bottom and outside of the lining, so it all matches nicely!

It's also waterproof! I did that by sewing a layer of tarp between the blue and yellow fabrics.



I did this without a pattern; I just used a measuring tape and my own genius brain ;-) And I now have a much prettier basket! My next project will be to make a matching lining for the basket on the back of my bike. That one will be a little bit tricker because of the shape. And yes, I will put up pics of my bike with the basket at some point. Once I've taken them :-)

Monday, July 25, 2011

What does "clipless" even mean??

When I started cycling regularly, I decided I should probably learn more about bikes and how they work. One thing that came up a few times was comments about a "Debate" over "clipped vs clipless" pedals. With no explanation.

I sort of ignored it.

Being winter, I've been figuring out just how much stuff I really need for cycling around. All you Americans and Europeans will laugh at me, but 5]C is actually quite cold! So I've bought ear warmers and gloves and leg warmers and thermal underwear... All in the interests of cycling as comfortably as possible.

I've also noticed that my foot slips off the pedal when it's wet. So if I stepped onto a moist road or grass before cycling off, I'll be dealing with not having grip between the pedal and my shoe. It's not fun and I've nearly lost my balance because of it a few times.

Now, I really don't want the kind of shoes and pedals that go together where you have to clip yourself in and the shoes are all specialist and expensive. What I want are those strappy, stirrupy things that attach to pedals at the front and keep your toe from going too far forward, or slipping off.

Now, a google search for "Strappy stirrupy pedal things" doesn't yield a great deal... But I eventually found out that the strappy stirrupy things are, in fact, toe clips. The funky shoe/pedal combos are "cleats".

So there you go, dear readers! You have now learned some cycling terminology that I took great pains to find out for you. Enjoy your new fun intellectuality :-)

And also, I now have pedals with toe clips, so my foot won't keep sliding off the pedal every time the sole of my shoe gets wet. It'll make a nice change!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Things People Get Wrong (Part 2)

There are two behaviours from people that I can't handle: Shouting about one thing when they're actually angry about something else or giving me the silent treatment. Seriously, few things make me more angry and frustrated and hurt (when it is directed at me) than these.

The main problem with them is that the thing you're actually angry about doesn't end up being resolved because you're going on about something completely different, or you're not talking about it at all! So it's pointless. It also confuses the person you're being angry at.

I had a lot of this from my mother (I'm thinking of renaming this blog as something like "A Tribute to Freud"). Her favourite thing thing to shout about was my lack of music practice. If she'd had a bad day, if she was tired and grumpy, if she needed a cigarette... You guessed it. She'd take it out on me, about the fact that I hadn't touched one of my instruments in a month and the other one in a lot longer.

She also had this habit of just not speaking to me. She'd go through all the motions (driving me to school etc), but she wouldn't talk to me or look at me. She'd just have this sour look on her face the whole time I was around. It was fucking awful to go through, and she could maintain it for over a week if she wanted to. 

It may have been a control thing, and that she knew she could make me do what she wanted to by either verbally beating me down in to submission. She could control me, even if she couldn't control whatever else she was feeling or whatever else was actually going on. It ultimately doesn't matter, because the end result was the same: I got confused and angry at her, I did what I was told to avoid having to go through the same thing again. The sad part is that I started to hate playing music because I always played it in anger, all because she wasn't able to talk openly about what was actually going on in her head.

So the next time you're angry about something, take a step back and think about what is really making you angry, and be angry about that. Not about your partner having left the towel on the floor or the plate on the table, or whatever. Figure out what is really bugging you before you get into a fight over something that is relatively inconsequential and not at all related.

Ask yourself: Is it really worth damaging the relationship for?

And please, don't ever do this to me because I'll probably cry.

Monday, July 18, 2011

So, you want to encourage cycling.

You hear a lot of ideas about why cycling isn't as popular as it should be and, specifically, why more people aren't encouraged to start cycling. Helmet laws are, in my experience, the #1 reason that people think is discouraging to new cyclist. I have a different theory, though. This is partly to do with my own personal experiences cycling on the road and also to do with the fact that my brain can't cope with the idea of people being so completely stupid that the 10 seconds it takes to put a helmet on would be enough to put them off.

I think the answer is, wherever possible, segregated bike lanes. Like the ones they have in China. I think these are a good idea for the same reason that slow lanes in swimming pools are a good idea. If you've ever been a slow swimmer who accidentally found yourself in the fast lane, you'll know what I'm talking about. It's intimidating.

See, cars are SCARY. Having a care overtake you, when you can't see them coming due to the lack of mirrors, is scary! It's frightening enough when it happens at under 50km/hr on a small suburban street, let alone at 60+km/hr on a main road. Add to that the complete lack of crumple zone and you've got a terrifying scenario.

Having cars cut you off, nearly hit you because they aren't giving way, beep loudly at you and drivers swear at you is alarming, particularly if you're only new, doing your best and obeying the road rules as best you can.

I'm fortunate enough to be as stubborn as I am, but anyone who is less timid than I would not like this cycling thing one little bit.

If new cyclists, the ones with no experience riding on the road, are to be encouraged, then they need to feel SAFE. The way to make them feel safe is to not make them feel like they are in the way of traffic and a danger to themselves and everyone else around them.

I think that infrastructure is the best possible answer to this, and I'm not the only one.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grr.

If your minimum standards for the behaviour of children don't include:

- Following basic laboratory safety rules
- Not talking while the teacher is talking
- Not talking during a video
- Following the SCHOOL RULES like not chewing gum

and if you don't follow through with consequences once you've threatened them, then you shouldn't be a teacher!!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Time for a break

I'm very tired and feeling uninspired. I'll be back posting for term 3, so 18th of July.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Getting to Know You

I posted last week about getting to know my new camera and getting used to all the wacky newness of having a Digital/SLR hybrid. I thought maybe I should give you some examples of the sorts of things I'm getting out of it:


This is the first photo I ever took with the new camera. It is underexposed, blurry, and kind of... Well, brown. I was horrified at it, but fortunately I know that adjusting settings is all that's really needed.


This is a picture of a flower. No, really. If you look really hard and squint a little, you can almost see it. This was taken in the shade, late afternoon, and with too short an exposure.


This is another flower in the same patch of grass, this time with a longer exposure. I still wasn't entirely happy with it, though. It was too dark and way too blue.


This is that same flower, with a fair amount of photoshopping. I brightened it up, changed the contrast, altered the hue of the picture, then I took the colour out of the flower because I couldn't figure out any other way of making it less blue.

So you can see why my first challenge is just getting to know the device. I think I've made reasonable progress as far as this goes, but I have a fair way to go. I realise that very few photos out there come out perfect the first time and that most have at least some post-production work done on them, so I won't beat myself up about that flower not coming out so nicely the first time. But that kind of result without using photoshop is what I'll continue to aim for :-)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lust

One of the problems with ADHD is that it is partly the result of a faulty reward system. This is overly simplistic as the characteristic lack of dopamine affects many areas of brain function and learning, but it may be related to risk-taking behaviour and addiction in those with ADHD.

Treatment for it through stimulant medications decreases the chances that someone with ADHD will attempt to self-medicate through other means, such as drugs or hoon driving or eating the mouldiest cheese they can find.

Of course, if it goes unmedicated, the poor ADD-er will start looking for other ways to get this "high" that we are so lacking.

One of the things that ADD-ers are known for is intense, short bursts of obsession over a new hobby, be it photography, stamp-collecting, or a movie they just saw. The symptoms are a lot like the early stages of falling in love. Consider please:

- You can't think about anything else
- It's all you talk about
- You get pictures of the of the object of your affection and put them EVERWHERE
- You find out as much as you can about the object of your affection
- You feel excited at the thought of doing something with the object of your affection

Of course, just like in love, after a few weeks your obsession dies down a little. That adrenaline rush you used to get just isn't as intense any more, and other thoughts are able to make it into your brain for more than half a second. This is where it either becomes True Love where the relationship grows into something and nurtures both of you, or fades into the distance to be replace by something that is as thrilling and exciting as the previous one was at the very start.

And so, the obsession cycle goes in ADHD, and it is all about seeking that next high.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A personal challenge

My housemate and I are involved in a mutual challenge. Every week, we try to cook a recipe we've never done before. It's pretty good because it's helped to reinvogorate my interest in cooking, and I'm thinking that it might be a good idea to do something like that with photography, now that I have my new DSLR. There are, however, a few modifications I would make:

Firstly, I think that it should be fortnightly or monthly. The recipe challenge can be weekly because I can afford to just pick a night of the week when I have a few hours free and spend maybe 10mins choosing a recipe before I go cooking. With photography, I need to give myself enough time to factor in changes in my workload, other scheduling and weather. So I think I'll make it monthly, and put up a few photos I'm particularly proud of for that month.

Secondly, I've realised that my first challenge has already started: getting to know the camera. So this month, I'm learning about how the camera handles light. My goal is to be able to consistently get photos where it's clear what the subject is. I need to learn how to balance the shutter speed, ISO, and the F-stop (how open the shutter starts off being).

It's not as easy as it sounds, mainly because a DSLR is a bizarre mix of the SLR film cameras I once used and the point-and-shoot cameras I've recently become used to. For instance, on this DSLR I can't see how the photo's turned out until I've taken it. I don't have to wait for it to be on the computer, but what I see through the view finder isn't exactly what I end up with.

With the SLR camera I once had, I'm used to controlling the shutter opening by rotating part of the lens casing and I can't do that here. I also have to push a button to see roughly how much light is getting in at that diameter. Of course, that won't tell me how the shutter speed will affect the image.

I'm also really not used to ISO, and I don't really want to use it if it can be avoided because it results in photos becoming noisy.  This means I have to focuse mostly on the other two, and on using the flash.

Hopefully I'll have fewer shocks when I go into Playback mode, like today when I went to look at my shots and saw nothing but black...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I feel the need: The need for SPEED!

Now, I'm not a racing cyclist. I don't consider myself an athlete. I like to think I'm athletic (despite the layer of squish that I've been sporting lately), in spirit if not in the flesh. As such, going really fast on the bike isn't one of my main goals.

Having said that, I must admit a small amount of jealousy toward the lycra-clad guys on their roadies with their massive and muscular calf muscles who insist on overtaking me during my commute every morning. I'm not jealous of the lycra, bikes or muscles: Just slightly miffed at how fast they can go.

Whether I want to or not, I do see speed as a measure of fitness and strength. I am less fast, therefore less fit and strong. Which is clear, given that I need an electric bike to get me to work and back consistently and more than twice/week. So, my lack of speed feels like failure when I compare myself to these other guys on the trail (there aren't many recreational cyclists crazy enough to tackle the hills I take to get to work).

The other advantage to fast riding is time. The less time it takes me to get to work in the morning, the more time I have for things like sleeping in, having a cooked breakfast, drinking coffee, Internetting, etc etc.  The less time I spend cycling home from work, the more time I have for, well, the same sorts of things.

As beautiful as my ride to work is (and it's pretty damned gorgeous; lakes, parks, wetlands... Beautiful!), I'd still rather spend as little time on it as possible. So while I don't keep records of my time spent commuting and don't have a Personal Best that I try to beat at every opportunity, I can't pretend that being really really fast wouldn't have me just a little bit chuffed...

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Joys of Cycling

My commute to work involves going through a park. Here are some photos of it; hopefully they'll help show why I love it so much :-)


This is the lake that I cycle past every morning. Sometimes it's covered in mist, and it looks like the ducks are floating on nothing.


This is one of the ducks!


Some of the benches that you can picnic on.


Right now, the ground is an amazing mix of green grass and yellow leaves. At the right time of day with the sun low-ish in the sky, you realise where the Australian colours of green and gold come from.


Dew drops.


An ant with wings!


A coot. The white forehead and red eyes are quite striking.

So, this is why I love cycling so much. At some point soon I'll hopefully take some pictures of other parts of my commute and post those up for you all to see :-)


Thursday, June 2, 2011

New bike!

Just over a fortnight ago, I road-tested a Gazelle Innergy electric bike. I'd read about Gazelle bikes on Lovely Bicycle, so I was intrigued given I'd heard good things about the style of bike and the brand.



I tried two bikes at two different shops. The first was a diamond-frame (men's) bike in the largest size. I could barely get my leg over the damned thing and I couldn't get my bum on the seat. So much for that! I never did like diamond frames, and having one on a bike that's too big for you is a huge problem.



The second shop had a model in the smallest size, and it was a step-through (ladies') frame. It was still a bit high for me (they'd have to take the suspension post out for me to lower it enough for my short little legs), but I was actually able to get on to this one and take it for a spin!

The first thing I noticed was how different the upright posture feels. My Apollo is pretty good that way, but I still lean forward a bit on it. This one actually lets me sit upright properly, which is so much more comfortable for my shoulders and back muscles.

The next thing was the way the motor helps with riding uphill. It's fantastic. I tried it with the pedal assist off, and on the 3 other modes (normal, "eco", and boost). The difference is huge. This bike is heavier than mine (the battery adds weight, at the very least) so it would be harder to get going up a hill anyway, but with the motor engaged and helping you along it made that hill effortless. You can take off, uphill, in 6th gear! With this thing on, you don't even need gears! Well, ok, you do. But it's so much easier with the motor!

Now, steep hills aren't a free ride on this little beauty. You can't necessarily ride them the way you would on flat ground; you do still have to work, but it makes them easier enough that you don't lose all hope half-way along. I'm still getting exercise and working up a sweat, but without the sense of impending doom that comes along with it on a normal machine.

To give a slightly more thorough run-down on what it feels like to ride: There are 4 modes for the motor: Economy, Normal, Boost, and Off. Aside from the last, these are customisable and the dealer can set up how much power each of these gives you. The maximum oomph  is 250W, but in australia the maximum legal oomph is 200W, so that's what mine is set to. I don't know about the other two, except that they're less (and "off" obviously means that I'm not using it at all).

Economy: This is the mode that gives your battery the longest life expectancy. It's good for riding home on the flat when you're a bit tired, and pretty much nothing else.

Normal: This this one's decent for hills that you actually notice. It also helps you gain a bit of speed on the flat.

Boost: Good for all but the steepest hills, and excellent if you want to reach maximum speed really really quickly. In Australia, the maximum speed it can help you reach is 27.5km/hr, and then the motor cuts out.

Though the effect of the motor kicking in is really subtle, if you've been riding it with the motor engaged and then you switch it off, even on a flat, you really notice the change. It feels like the bike lags just a touch. It's hard to describe, but it kind of feels like the bike being miffed at you for making it do extra work on its own. Yes, these bikes appear to have personalities.

Anyway. Back to talking about the physical features of the machine:

Another thing I really like is how well-integrated everything is. The battery is kept under the rear rack, which looks much nicer than some other brands where it is kept just behind the seat post and quite frankly doesn't look very nice.

The bell is part of the handle, so it looks extremely tidy.

The wires all disappear inside the body of the bike. Now, this is fairly minor but it does do something for the aesthetics.

There is a little button hides the nut that you loosen to raise the handlebars. This is a very minor detail, but it is an important one. I like it because it shows that someone else out there realises that form is as important as function. Believe me, there are some fugly things out there because people forget this.

As you have probably guessed, I am now the proud owner of one of these beauties and hills are no longer bothering me anywhere near as much as they used to! I can actually make it home from work without feeling like I'm about to die!

Hooray!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Nerdville

We're watching a video about scientific discoveries in Astronomy.

I LOVE PHYSICS SO MUCH. So much coolness!

I am an anxious person.

There is one thin you really should never do with me, and that is say "Can I speak to you privately when you have a minute?"

Seriously, Don't Do It.

You see, I'm paranoid. I mean, really paranoid. If it is something that you can't say in front of other people, then there is a reason you can't say it in front of other people. In a professional environment, this means that you are either talking to me about me, or about someone else. Given I don't really know about what stupid things other people are doing in this place, I can only assume that you're talking about me.

If you have something to talk to me about, just tell me what it is. Seriously. I need to know or I'll be panicky and working out how to tell my husband and housemate that I've been fired the entire time until we have that talk and I finally find out that what you actually want is my opinion on what colour to paint the wall in your office.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cohabitation

So, Oolon and I have been living together for about a month now. A lot of people have asked me how married life feels, and I haven't really had an interesting response for them. Basically, it's not all that different to unmarried life, except that I get to keep him over night!

It helps, of course, that he was staying over about two nights/week on a regular basis for most of the year leading up to the wedding and for three nights in the last month or so beforehand.

The main difference are fairly minor and come with both going from an all-female household to one that includes a male and just generally from having a third person here. For instance, there's now men's shaving gear in the bathroom. Men's underwear on the washing line. There's even more washing that needs doing on a regular basis, which is making me think that a second clothes horse might not be such a bad idea (if room can be found for it, which I haven't been able to do yet), and there are extra dishes to be done each day.

All fairly minor things which are only vaguely noticeable. And, of course, I get to keep him after dark ;-)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stuff for sale!

Oolon and I are in the process of massive lifestyle changes. So, we're selling two bikes and a car.

Bike 1: My Apollo. It's in good nick, recently serviced.
Step-through frame
7 gears
RRP $349 without things like the rear rack ($50), lights ($30) or mud guards ($60).
I want to sell it for around $350 WITH those extras.

Bike 2: Oolon's Canondale, also in excellent condition, also step-through. Has more gears. Contact him for details.

Car: Nissan Pulsar, 2003 model.
5-door hatch
Just under 120,000km
We're asking $7990 ono

So, if you live in Melbourne and are after a bike (or a couple of bikes) and/or a car, please get in touch!

Monday, May 23, 2011

When I grow up, I want to be just like...

There's an old cliché that all women eventually turn into their mothers. For those whose mothers are awesome, this may not be such a big deal and may even be something to aspire to. For those of us whose mothers are less than inspiring, it is something which we dread and want to avoid at all costs.


I do not want to become my mother. There are definitely some similarities between us (as is only natural, given that I spent the first 25 years of my life living with her and have half her DNA) and not all of them are ones I'd like. For instance, I'm bad-tempered and proud. These are the main two characteristics which make her unpleasant, and could potentially make me a lot more unpleasant than I already am. But I do have certain abilities which will keep me from ever becoming like her:


1) I'm aware of how bad-tempered I am. This means that, under most circumstances, I'm able to either prevent an outburst or I'm able to warn people that one is on its way. Of course, this system does fail occasionally, and this is where my other advantage comes in:


2) I'm able to let go of my pride and admit I was wrong. If I do have an outburst, I'm well aware that I'm behaving inappropriately. As soon as I'm calm enough to speak normally, I apologise for it and explain why it happened. I do this not to excuse the behaviour, but for two other very important reasons: 


1) To let the person know that I recognise that it came from me and isn't their fault
2) Because saying it out loud helps me to internalise what happened and why it happened, and helps me in the learning process of preventing it from happening again.


I guess all this can be summed up by me saying that I'm self-aware, and my mother isn't. Because of this, I will never become my mother.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Parenthood

Having a cat is a lot like having a toddler. There are a lot of advantages to the cat, like being able to leave it alone at home all day, but there are many similarities:

Their communication is limited. Cats are very good at communicating. They have a lot of different vocalisations, and you learn to recognise what quite a few of them are. But a lot of the time they'll just be going on and on and on and on about something and you have absolutely no clue what they're on about, or what they want when they're complaining but have food, fresh watter, and a clean litter tray.

They sometimes need their bum cleaned. Even well-toilet-trained kids sometimes have accidents, and so do cats. They get diarrhea, they leave a mess on the floor. If they're really fluffy (like mine), they can even get dags. So, you need to wash their bums. Stinkyyyyyyy!

They want you to wake up at a certain time of day, no matter how late the night before was. Children tend to like life to be reasonably predictable I was like this, and would be jumping on my parents' bed at 6am, insisting that it was time for dad to make coffee even though I'd kept them up until 3am the night before. Cats can be similar, and mine gets quite distressed if I'm not up when he expects me to be up. He also gets distressed if Oolon isn't up early enough as well. They don't cope too well with change.

They often decide they want hugs in the middle of the night. Most people who know parents are familiar with the toddler that wakes up in the middle of the night and wants to sleep in mum and dad's bed. Cats are like this, too. In the middle of the night, you will often wake up to a very loud rumbling in your ear, a furry weight on your chest, and your nose being sandpapered. This is your cat telling you that it thinks you're utterly brilliant and wanting hugs in the middle of the night. Just like a kid.

They are happies when snuggled between you and your spouse.  When Smudge is wanting attention, be it in the middle of the night or early in the morning, he seems happiest if he's between me and Oolon, in the way that kids tend to be. You are snug and warm in a safe place, and getting in the way of any siblings occurring :-p Unfortunately for Smudge, if we decide to get another cat, that will happen down the road at the shelter and no amount of snuggling in between us will help him!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Yet another photo post

These were taken in Adelaide, and have been tinkered with :-)

Daydreaming

 I was originally going to make this one entirely black and white, but then I got creative :-p


A Leaf on the Wind

That leaf made my opinion of this picture change a lot. Before I saw it when I actually looked at the pic on my computer, I thought it was pretty good. Then I noticed the leaf and considered it flawed; a real shame and a waste of a good photo. Then I embraced the leaf, made it a feature, and am pleased with how it turned out. A metaphor for our own flaws, perhaps?


Concentric Circles

This photo was also intended to be in B&W, and I'm pleased with how it turned out. I did some tinkering with brightness and contrast to make it look better and I'm quite happy with it over all.



This was originally just a picture of a pretty window, but then I noticed that the lights from the chandelier matched up really well with the patterns in the glass. I thought about different ways of showing this off and decided that desaturating everything else was the way to go.

So, here you have it! Me and Photoshop :-)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Proof that you can't take me anywhere.

Oolon and I are in a restaurant with is parents, about to pay for our meals. A girl behind me sneezes, and I say "Bless you!"

Half a minute later, I notice a shrimp on the floor at her feet. My response: "Did you sneeze that out??"

Well, I can take me places. You just have to apologise afterward.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why I'm not particularly good at anything

One of the problems with ADHD is that I tend to get bored with things before I get good at them. In fact, not getting good at things quickly is more inclined to make me get bored with them. If I have to keep practicing the same skill over and over again without noticing an great difference, I get fed up with it and try to do something else.

This is one of the problems with going to the gym. If I don't see results of some sort within a few weeks, I start to get frustrated and to despair. I get sick of doing the same thing but to no avail.

It's why I'm having some trouble with my motivation to cycle lately - I hadn't noticed any increase in the ease of the ride (in fact, it got harder and harder for a while) or a decrease in how long the ride takes or even an increased ability to ride in more often, which brought my spirits way down. Even figuring out why I was finding it more difficult didn't help much, because by that point I'd regressed a bit and the thought of having to do a huge amount of work just to get back to the level at which I was a few weeks ago... My goodness, that's a horrible thought.

It's easier to just give up and not do it. Having to do the whole thing again, or having to put massive effort into achieving a really minor improvement just doesn't seem worth while, especially when I see other people putting in less and achieving the same, or even more.

Then there's the fear of seeing just how far I've regressed, which is even more reason to not do it because if I avoid it, then I'll avoid the frustration of knowing I used to be better at this, and being annoyed at myself for letting it slip.
It kind of makes you feel a bit failsome and lazy. That brings me down even further, and really reduces my motivation to do anything. So, I've employed my husband to make me do some riding. There is a point where I just need someone to help keep me going, because I am beyond being able to do it myself.

Here's hoping that it works.

Monday, May 9, 2011

About the wedding

Ok, so it's been long enough since the wedding now that I feel like writing about it. I've been having to tell lots of people who weren't there about it, so it gets a bit tiring to keep talking about which is why I've delayed so long.

So, The Big Day!

Got up at 7am. My lovely housemate greeted me with my cat, who had a blue ribbon wrapped around him. That was pretty awesome! She also got breakfast ready because she's awesome. My other bridesmaid (who flew down from Sydney) had stayed the night, so the three of us went to get our hair done. We actually had mohawks! But only to begin with - she needed to tease it to get it to stay properly.

I got picked up by Oolon's lovely aunt and and she took me to get my make-up done. At home, I was greeted by baked chips and got dressed. Now, the original plan was to take the train to the venue (in Melbourne's CBD), which turned out to be difficult which is why Oolon's aunt offered to drive us. So, while I was being force-fed food and getting my stockings on and trying not to be nervous, a LIMOUSINE showed up. My bridesmaid from Sydney had arranged it covertly, because she's also awesome.

So, limo to the city! We dropped our stuff off at the venue and I was ushered around so that Oolon (who was already there) didn't see me. We took some photos in the parks nearby, and a little girl who walked past us with her mum and sister said "They're so pretty!", which had me feeling pretty chuffed.

We had the most amazing weather, and there weren't too many people about so it was easy to take some nice shots. We got to the venue with a bit of time to spare, so we sat in our little bridal closet drinking chamagne and touching up makeup and trying to keep me from getting too much stage fright. Distracting questions included "Which is your favourite star wars movie?" and "If you had a super power, what would it be and what would you use it for?".

The ceremony was great. Our celebrant did a great job. I blushed bright red for most of it, nearly cried, and Oolon didn't let go of my hands except to put the ring on.

The rest of it was spent being social (hard to do when I had, on average, less than 3min to spend with each guest) and squeeing over the cake. The cake had ladybugs on it. Very important, given we had silk roses on it so we needed to protect them from the aphids... Yes, we're silly like that :-)

After the wedding, we went to the Windsor. The original plan was to take the City Circle tram but, like my original plan for getting to the venue, it didn't quite happen that way. One of Oolon's groomsmen arranged for a horse and carriage to take us to our hotel. Because he's awesome, too.

So, we had a brilliant time :-) That was the run-down of the wedding. I'll write about the honeymoon a bit later :-)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Things I like about Adelaide

Adelaide is a very pretty city. It has gorgeous buildings, beautiful gardens, and pandas in the zoo! It is also a lot more bike-friendly than Melbourne.



For one thing, it has free bike hire during the day, and as far as I'm aware they didn't have the issue of helmets being mandatory and yet not provided.

I also like that the city realised the folly of having bikes being unable to trip road sensors in order to change the lights, given that the sensors are in the middle of the road and the bikes need to keep to the far left, preferably in the bike lane. So, you'll see a lot of these:


It's the same as our pedestrian crossings, but for bikes! I think it's awesome.

I also liked a lot of the bikes I could see around the place, like these guys:


I especially like the one in the front, with the hand-made basket on the back and a couple of loaves of bread :-) It also has an interesting detail on one of the tubes:



I also love the autumn colours. It's seriously gorgeous. This is one from Hahndorf:



I also like seeing that people do things like this:






It's a lamp post. Wearing a jumper. You may ask "Why". I say "Why not"! :-) It also had a funky monster badge on it:


So yes, I rather liked Adelaide :-)

Monday, May 2, 2011

PHOTOS!!!!

Some photos of my adventure at Adelaide zoo, which I went to on my honeymoon. Enjoy!

Wang Wang, the male panda.

Fu Ni, the female panda.

An un-known red panda. Possibly the cutest creature in all creation!

A Wallaby with beautiful eyes.

A pretty bird.

These are mandarin ducks. How something this colourful survives without being eaten by EVERYTHING is beyond me, but my goodness they make me happy!!!

Meerkat!!! On sentry duty. Alert little fella, 'inne?

This is a dwarf mongoose.

Stand-off between a chicken and a magpie. The chicken won. I'm not kidding.