Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I need to learn to sew...

I'm in that terrible position where I have a favour style of pants... These...

I have three pair. They're from Oh My Gauze and they are no longer in production! My three pair are becoming threadbare (that will happen with clothing made from gauze), and they are now very difficult to track down online. 

The design is very simple, they're a basic wide-legged pant which is gathered in pleats at the bottom and hemmed into a wide band. I would say a person with basic machine sewing skills could probably make them.

I need to learn how to sew! STAT!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nine kinds of Crazy...

The title of this post describes the last week for me.

Last week we had the parent/teacher/student conferences at the high school for the older two boys. That was hard work. Both boys seem to be struggling with concepts of responsibility, commitment and hard work.

I'm trying to be understanding. Puberty is a tough time. There is so much going on, and most of it is way more interesting than doing school work, but how do I get them to understand that teachers works hard to prepare classes and having students who don't pay attention, muck around with their friends, or simply refuse to turn up because they've decided they're no longer interested in the class is not only rude, but also letting themselves down.

Two of Lukas' teachers were set to jump over the desk and throttle him. I said to one that she seemed fed up, she replied that that was quite an understatement. The other teacher, a rather hip looking, friendly sort, started out mildly perplexed and by the end of the 8 minute meeting was white around the edges with pent up fury.

Another teacher, who tried to be more compassionate, and who we know to be very easy-going on kids, just seemed confused that Lukas couldn't put together sort science report each week. Especially when his lab partner was doing all the note taking on his laptop and all Lukas really needed to do was compose his own conclusions.

Lukas seems to be in something of a bromance with a school pal. Year six was very difficult for Lukas on the friendship front, and so I think he is relieved to have a large group of friends and one close friend in particular, but it seems he defers to this friend when it comes to classroom attitude and behaviour, and is also keen to amuse his friend, and in doing this he is seriously pissing off his teachers.

Erik didn't fair much better. He has been skipping on class regularly this term because he felt the workload was interfering with his other school work, so rather than approaching the teacher to discuss this (and negotiate the workload, which is absolutely possible at this school), he decided to avoid the class altogether. He has improved in English, so he had one happy teacher. His sports teachers said he was a natural leader, but needed to be aware of how he has the power to influence other students for good but also for not so good. His maths teacher is living in denial, I think, and not doing him any favours with her overly positivist attitude to his ability in maths (it's great that she wants to encourage him, but she's not seeing the forest for the trees).

On Wednesday we had a well overdue rental inspection. So all day Wednesday was spent tidying and cleaning, so that the real estate agent could walk through the house in less than five minutes, snapping off photos of each room, then leave.

Thursday my dad arrived unannounced. It is always great to see him, but I have to admit I was already exhausted before he arrived and then the upheaval of having an unexpected guest just wiped me out. He stayed the night and there was much wandering down memory lane and some sharing of difficult news, so it was emotionally quite a tough 24 hours.

Saturday, I stayed in bed all day. Even so, I could not relax. I think I'm far too tightly wound at the moment. One good thing to come out of Saturday was that the Grumpy Old Man located my birth certificate, finally. I STILL haven't received the birth certificate I spent $70 odd on well over a month ago now. When that finally arrives, at least I'll have two.

Yesterday I went to my brother's again. It seems I've stuffed up the healing of the fob watch I had down the previous weekend. Mike has given me new instructions for rectifying the situation and it will take a while longer to heal now, and then he'll have to redo do the entire tattoo.

I did have a new one done though - still working on that half sleeve on my right arm...

I am so, so happy with this original design! This is only the linework and shading - colouring will be added to it in a couple of weeks or so. The left eye cog represents my blind left eye. And, of course, owls represent education and wisdom (one of which I am gaining, the other I hope to have one day).

Today, I'm back in the office after a week. I have just finished doing, what I hope, will be the last of my secretary duties for MASC. I do need to add a couple of members to the membership spreadsheet, but that's okay. I need to be finished with this role, it is distracting me from my work.

I really need to get my head around this paper, which is now due in 15 days (not including today). I think I need to let go of the chapter I wrote previously and instead focus on writing a tight outline and then filling that in. Start from scratch, so to speak, but use parts from the chapter as fillers in the paper (possibly rewritten, but using the quotes and references I used before). Starting that outline will be this afternoon's work.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Hi there Spring...

We made it!

Winter is done and dusted for another year and we survived, yay us!

Actually, Melbourne is doing it wrong again, weather wise. We have amazing sunny, warm weather last week, but yesterday - the very first day of spring - the barometer dropped through the floor with a sonic boom!

Oh well, it won't be long until it warms up again.

In light of that I've gotten stuck into my tattoos again.

So, augmenting the existing book and smoke tattoo which was left unfinished from last summer. Now, keep in mind a few things. First and foremost, the tattoo is not finished yet, not by a long shot. Basically, this last weekend we mapped out the butterflies and got the outlines inked. Also, these outlines are rough, and need smoothing. Also, the ink is still oozing a bit in this picture and the wound is very, very fresh and I tend to puff up a fair bit. So, keep all those things in mind. We're giving this one a rest for a couple of weeks, to heal. Then we'll go in and smooth it out and add colour and highlights. We'll go over the book as well to freshen that up. And there may be another element added that I've thought of, but haven't brought up with Mike yet. Oh, these butterflies are glass wing butterflies, so there won't be colour added to the main part of the wings, but rather to the tips and edges.

Next weekend we're adding to the feather tattoo on the other arm. We'll be added three new elements (not all in one sitting), so stay tuned.

On the PhD front, I have this month to nail down the paper for peer review via the conference in Wellington. Speaking of the conference, I STILL haven't receive my birth certificate which I spent an extra $50 to have sent within 5 working days almost a MONTH ago! I'm going to ask for a refund, seriously!

I have a lead on writing another peer reviewed paper for an online publication. So, that's something else to get excited about.

What else? Oh yes, the boys did their 5 year high school plan on the weekend. Lukas is going to do Elite Music with a second string in business management and Erik will do Elite Art (when it starts in 2016, until then he's doing Art Elective and Studio Art, and his second string will be philosophy - these choices aren't set in stone, of course, but this is what they think they'll be interested in doing for now. Neither boy wants to deviate from the regular start time, which actually surprises me, I thought for sure they're opt for the 10.30 start. Another interesting point (for me, anyway) is that Erik, who loathes maths, has opted to do three units of maths where he only really needs to do one to pass VCE.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why I love my blog...

This week has been full on, man!

Our younger two boys had school musical performances in the ambition 'Seussical the Musical' on Monday and Tuesday nights. The Grumpy Old Man and I attended the Tuesday night encore performance and had front row seats to see our little cuties with all their school pals. I was really impressed. This was a proper musical with a story arch and speaking parts and the whole she-bang. The new performing arts teacher has excelled himself! It was very entertaining, our boys, though both had chorus roles, were awesome!

Bryn in the red tshirt, singing!

Ari making absolutely sure mummy can see him!
 On Wednesday night we attended an information session for the older boys' individualised learning plans for next year (and beyond). It was AMAZING. Our high school is AMAZING! It wouldn't be for everyone, but oh my it certainly is for us, and I will blog about everything we learned in the next couple of days.

Today I have been working on the finishing touches for tomorrow's AGM for the Mature Age Student Club. I spent all of Monday doing updating the membership spreadsheets, writing the agenda, locating the minutes from last year and so on. Today I updated the membership spreadsheets again, and printed out a whole lot of stuff for the meeting tomorrow, as well as writing up the secretary's report.

I have been talking a lot about being stressed lately, and you will be relieved to hear that I am now taking steps to relieve some of the stress. I will be seeing a GP on Monday, partially to get forms filled in to apply for the Grumpy Old Man to become mine and Erik's carer (I am currently Erik's carer), but also to get mental health plans for myself and Erik.

But here is why I love my blog. I overshare a fair bit on here. It's easy, I don't have a lot of concept that anyone is really reading my posts. I do see the visitors on Statcounter, but well, people don't often comment, so it's hard to feel exposed, so to speak. But this week I received an email from a reader who has emailed me before. It was really supportive and had some great advice, and so I asked the reader for permission to post the contents of the email here, as she gave me permission.

I love hearing from my readers!

Dear Sif 

What a bundle you are carrying - you must do something. When I was an apprentice in a printing factory sometimes there was so much to do and customers where scolding, colleges were yelling for their jobs handed over to them and I was in tears as nothing happened to change things or lessen the stress. An old typographer then said: If you take the jobs that take the least time to finish, no matter where they are in the line, you can handle then over to the printers and they will shut up while printing them and your desk will look less heavy and your eyes see that something happened. It is not always that you have to do things for them that yell loudest, you have to do things so you can live with them and save yourself so you can work some more. 
Much truth is in this. And if one lifts up the whole packet at once (as I think you are doing) it becomes so heavy and the sight gets clogged and filled completely by this packet.  

Dear Sif, do untangle your tasks and heavy burden, lay it out and ask yourself: What can I finish now and then shovel it away? What can be done in next week or the week after so I get piece to enjoy the things I do next? 

I ask you to forgive me for "preaching" like an old aunt but I have been were you are now. Worries only make us sick and carelessness does that also. So it is the hard-to-find-way of the middle course. 

Púff.Yours Thora Elfa
Thank you Thora, I will most definitely be taking your advice and untangling my tasks!

In other good news: last night I received a 'heads up' about a symposium being held here are Deakin in collaboration with my alma mata (Canberra University) at the beginning of October. I've put my hand up to present at the symposium, so hopefully I will get to do that and it will add to my experience and exposure!

I have decided to ask around about what I need to do about getting some sort of work at Deakin (either research or tutoring, but actually I'd be willing to do anything at this point) because I really need some form of income if I'm going to continue this PhD.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Age of Discussing Disease...

The Grumpy Old Man just had a long chat with a mate on the phone and then started telling me the news he had from various friends jotted around Australia. Basically, just about every piece of news was about disease. Triple bypass surgery, bowel cancer, stomach cancer...

Recently, I had mentioned to him that we seem to know a lot of people who are fighting diseases at the moment. Particularly cancer. I have four friends who are either actively fighting cancer, or have recently gone into remission; breast cancer, ovarian cancer, bowel cancer. Then there are the friends with diabetes, MS, blood pressure issues.

We've hit 'that age', the age where people no longer shoot the breeze about bands, or movies, or holidays, but rather about surgeries, and treatments, and remedies.

Mortality is a bitch, isn't it?

On the other hand, I also have friends who are big into taking supplements, running, and doing meditation - all to stave of the diseases they feel surrounded by. Just makes me want to go to bed, if I'm perfectly honest!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The difference between being a critic and being a critical thinker...

I have observed a practice in many people of criticising where they assume they are employing critical thinking skills, and so I want to discuss the difference between the two activities because it think a lot of people confuse being a critic with being a critical thinker...

Let's look at a couple of dictionary definitions, first up.

a person who expresses an unfavourable opinion of something.
"critics of the new legislation say it is too broad"
synonyms:detractor, censurer, attacker, fault-finder, carper, backbiter, caviller,reviler, vilifier, traducer, disparager, denigrator, deprecator, belittler;More
a person who judges the merits of literary or artistic works, especially one who does so professionally.
"a film critic"
  1. synonyms:commentatorobservermonitorpunditexpertauthorityarbiter,interpreterexponent, expounder; More

As you can see, a critic is someone who criticises. Someone who looks for what is wrong in something and then points out the wrong to others. A critic is someone who has an intrinsic, and personal, understanding of what is wrong, as opposed to what it right. Their understanding of wrong-ness is primarily about personal taste, personal opinion. This may be an opinion shared by many, but it is nonetheless an opinion. An endpoint of thinking. A conclusion which shuts the door on further investigation of the matter and delivers a judgement.

critical thinkingnounthe objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.
"professors often find it difficult to encourage critical thinking among their stude

Critical thinking, on the other hand is the practice of setting aside opinion and analysing and evaluating something objectively. It is a challenge, as a human being, to be objective. We have a tendency to take what we have learned previously; experiences and previously formed opinions (the endpoint of thinking) and apply them to new situations all the time. This is because, as humans, judgements based on previous experience often save time in a truly dangerous situations e.g. a snarling wild animal is advancing, this is not a good time to test if the animal is friendly or hungry.

Humans are instinctive, and instincts are formed through experience. This is why human clings to opinions; their instinct, based on previous experience, offers a shorthand to judgement.

However, critical thinking requires us to set aside previously formed opinions on whatever it is we are critically analysing, and look at the product with fresh eyes, evaluate it on its own merit, ignoring the fact that we may - on the face of it - already agree or disagree with the products premise or conclusion.

I often see people employing criticism while attempting to pass it off as critical thinking. Tone is usually the first give away, if the tone of the critique is overly familiar and seeks to establish common ground early on, either through exalting or disparaging the source based on previous experience, you can be sure critical thinking has left the building. For example, 'Because we all know Sue is an expert in her field.' or 'Once again Bill is trying to hoodwink us.' are prime examples of critique without critical thinking. Foregone conclusions are the antithesis of critical thinking!

As a researcher, I have become more and more conscious of denying that voice in my head that says, 'I don't like the person, or the way they speak, so I think this is going to be rubbish even as I read the first paragraph.' and conversely, 'I love this theorist, I always agree with what s/he has to say!' because neither of these modes of thinking are critical.

People who have produced articles of critical thinking usually agree that their early work was a little sloppy, or not well argued, or could have been better sourced and so on. Researchers often hope people don't read their early work and assume that is all there is to them, but sadly too many people do because they don't employ critical thinking skills.

Just because someone made a mistake in the past, doesn't mean their work should be written off for all eternity. We all learn from our mistakes (hopefully) and improve our work as we progress through our careers.

Likewise, just because someone wrote with great insight and brilliance once, or even a dozen times, doesn't mean they won't occasionally make a mistake in their work, or overlook a critical error.

So, being a critical thinker means setting aside the desire to pre-judge something. It requires you to analyse and evaluate only the product in front of you for internal validity and logic.

Remember to be a critical thinker, not just a critic.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Family, memoir, all the stories...

I went to a session at the Melbourne Writer's Festival yesterday; Family with Ben Watt and Rupert Thomson, hosted by Sian Prior, author of Shy.

I went because the creative piece I'm writing for my thesis is a family memoir of sorts - though not strictly because it is a fictionalisation of family stories and not so much my own memory of events (certainly not events from two hundred years ago).

It was fascinating because people are fascinating.

I have to admit I didn't realise Ben Watt as one half of 'Everything but the Girl', so, I can honestly say I went with no preconceptions of the authors.

I've decided I need to work on my words. I need better language. Listening to the readings of the two male author's books (Ben Watt's Romany and Tom, and Rupert Thomson's This Party's Got to Stop).

Ben's reading, in particular, made me want to be a better writer (yes, I know, I'm totally stealing a line from 'As Good as it Gets' and I'm being corny, and I really couldn't care less because it's the truth).

I tell everyone I meet that every family has a story, the most amazing stories. Ben and Rupert proved this, yet again yesterday. I challenge all my readers to think about their family stories, there is something extraordinary in your family's history that deserves being documented, all families are interesting!

Also, today, I'd like to leave you with my theme song. I heard this on the radio this morning, and was reminded that I need to add this to the list of music that MUST be placed at my funeral. I have a number of songs which are messages from me to my kids, and to Dave, but this is the song I want all my friends and family to hear and think of me when they hear it!

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