Saturday, 19 December 2015

Everything you wanted to know about the (Holy Church of) Crossfit.

Howdy! We are on the slippery slope toward Chrissy! I hope you are all feeling cool (ha) calm and collected.


So I have blogged a bit about CrossFit here. Naomi said she didn't know anything about it, and it can sometimes draw quizzical glances from people.

Some people think I spend I lot of time on this kind of contraption.

That is a Cross Trainer.

Ha! They are sooooo 2003. But seriously, very gentle on the joints and a good way to get a good cardio workout.

The whole idea behind CrossFit is as such: constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity across broad modal and time domains. It is performed in specialised affiliate gyms, called "Boxes". The owners of the Boxes pay to use the CrossFit(TM) name. The coaches have specific CrossFit certification, and usually some other form of fitness qualification. Hence, while the philosophy is the same the world over, there is variability in what goes on in different Boxes.

Each Box has a timetable with multiple classes per day, it is not like a gym where you just rock up and slog it out in your own time on the equipment.

The classes go for an hour, and are formatted roughly as follows:
1. Warm up - can be skipping, running, rowing, mobility or light strength exercises, or plyometric exercises (burpees).
2. Skills - usually concentrating on strength training - for instance we do bench press, dead lifts, pull ups, clean and jerk and snatch.
3. The Workout of the Day, or WOD - a high intensity cardio or mixed session, usually of between 8 and 20 minutes duration. For instance, last week, we did a 500 metre row followed immediately after by a 400 metre fast run. 3 rounds of that with rests as needed in between. It may utilise weights, or  High Intensity Interval Training, or Tabata.

I try and go 4 or 5 times per week. I have noted a big improvement in my speed and strength. I can lift heavy things safely. I know more about my body than I ever did.

CrossFit is heavily associated with the Paleo movement. Hence there is sometimes a religious fervour of participants.

First rule of Fight Club....



They are also very anti "big soda" and "big sugar" and "big food".

There has been a lot of criticism of CrossFit, mostly in terms of its safety. I actually thoroughly researched it on the internet before I started. Some websites said that injury was inevitable (how scary). I had a chat with the owner/head coach before I started and outlined by concerns. He effectively put them to rest. The gold standard of exercise safety is whether the exercises can be scaled to suit pregnant women, and yes, definitely they can. In fact, given the fact that I have been trying to get pregnant, that was one of the first things I asked. I also have issues with the back and knees that occasionally niggle, and that is always taken into account with the programming.

Anybody's experience in exercise is very dependent on those who coach them, and the environment, unless of course they just like to slog it out in the gym in solitude. I have to say that my CrossFit box is very highly regarded in the area (shout out to Charge Crossfit) and I love going there.

Here is why I feel this is the best health related activity I have done in a long time (or ever):

  • The exercises are scalable to everybody, and can progress to a full movement. We are encouraged to scale back our exercises as necessary, for practical purposes and for safety. We are never ever made to feel bad for scaling. For instance, there was no way on earth that I could do a pull up, so I started with a ring-row. I am now onto pull ups assisted with bands, and the band is getting lighter as I get stronger. There is an exercise called a box jump which I am working on. I am very scared of the box, so I jump on weight plates, and I am building up the height slowly. I have made significant gains in strength and speed.

  • The coaches are brilliant, they know their stuff, are friendly and approachable, and are always on hand to suggest adjustments to the exercises. They are liberal with their praise when we improve, and this is something I respond well to.
  • The environment is friendly and supportive. Everybody cheers everybody else on. The last person to finish a workout will be encouraged until they finished. Some people don't respond well to this attention, but again, I do. I have made some good friends at the box as well.
  • The environment is body positive. The focus is, in the main, getting you performing to the best of your ability. Occasionally we have 6 week "challenges" where there are points given for healthy eating, exercise, stretching etc, and the person with the most points wins a prize. This is a great motivator to getting me eating well, but it is not about weight loss. There are people of most shapes and sizes there, and I have learned that athleticism is not always related to a certain body type. As a result, I have become more confident in my own skin, and proud of what my body can do. 
  • Getting "out of my mind and into my body" is very therapeutic. There is nothing like a fast workout, or a complex movement to do this. It has helped me managed the stress of the year.
  • It puts me in touch with my masculine side. It feels good to lift a heavy weight, grunt, drop it loudly and swagger off. It feels good to "smash" a workout, and give it everything you have.  The macho blokes are onto something. However, I always check myself before I wreck myself.
  • The movements are highly functional. I used to do distance running, at the expense of other modalities of exercise, however I can see no reason why I would ever need to shuffle 10 kilometres. Instead, I can lift, I can jump, I can push, pull and sprint. If ever I needed to, I could run 5 kilometres without any stress. For the first time in my life, I have guns (biceps).
So that's me on the topic.



Any questions?

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Don't fight the flow, bro.

It is usual that, late in the year, we start to think about setting our intentions for the new year. Some people call them new years' resolutions, but that sounds a bit inflexible. I like the idea of changing the way I approach whatever curve balls life throws at me, rather than doing the same thing every day. Flexible control.

My mate was talking about healthy eating in her blog. As it happens, I have just finished a 6-week challenge with my Crossfit box. We tested a workout at the beginning and retested the workout at the end. I slashed 2 minutes 22 seconds off it. This was me afterwards

Actually not me. I know. We are practically twins. It's actually Annie Thorisdottir, crossfit champ.
I am never one for deprivation, but I did clean up my act. Specifically, I have cut out diet drinks, eaten a whole lot more vegies, eaten less crap generally and started pushing harder in workouts.

It's far easier to eat lots of veg if they are tasty, or configured in an interesting manner. Enter the microplane.


This is the best thing ever, and it makes short work of fennel and red onion to make a really fancy salad. The microplane is not cheap (like $70 bucks) but it is the bomb dot com. Neither is the baby fennel, $2 each at coles. To borrow the parlance from Faux Fuchsia, I mean it's fennel, not gold bullion.

In terms of cost per use, the microplane is a great investment. The veg don't get stuck in there. And we all know that thin food makes us thin.

Physically, I am going for gold. Mentally and spiritually, well, lots of work has been required to keep this on an even keel. I have made no secret of my ambivalence towards Christmas, yet have done my best to embrace the season. However this year has bought a particular set of challenges with it.

I would have thought that, like everything else, the pain of a miscarriage would dissipate with time. Not actually true. The tears that come on quite out of the blue some days have taken me by surprise. Hearing of each new pregnancy in a friend or acquaintance, or seeing a fellow crossfitter with a baby bump will easily precipitate this. I had not expected this to happen, yet there it is. A wise friend told me that this was a particularly hard time of the year for those sorts of feelings. Maybe.

Having finished my PhD, I am now in the market for extra sessions of gainful employment, and these proving hard to come by, for various reasons not appropriate to write here. This, plus the post-goal bottoming out, has been hard too. I have learned, though, that when something is looking too hard to come by, sometimes it is best to back away and change tack. Plan A works better when you have a plan B. I am now making arrangements for plans D and E, and I am feeling good about them.

The extra $$ are very much needed, as home renovation plans are afoot. I know! Exciting and scary! We have engaged the services of an architectural firm to design and project manage the extension. He took us through the concept drawings and 3D render, and it was really exciting to see. Then we talked costs, and bank loans, and that was somewhat less exciting. Unfortunately the design brief "please make us a palatial home at minimal cost" got lost in translation.

So 2016 looks to be a year full of challenges, some of them actually exciting. I was considering my watchword for the year, and I think it will be "patience". The second one will be "flexibility".

To make hay while the sun shines.

To manage, day by day, when things are tough, and get through as best I can.

To not be tired by waiting.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Christmas.....I literally can't even.



That is probably a bit of an exaggeration.

I have come far, you see. I can now enter a shop with Christmas Carols playing, and not have the extreme urge to vomit/run screaming from the store/cry. In fact, yesterday, I even sang along to "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", in my special supermarket singing voice. I even bought a lame Christmas t-shirt and have worn it to an event.

I even plan on buying cards, writing in them, and giving them to people! Along with home-made baked goods.

I call that progress, friends. Put a red hat on me and wrap me in goddamn tinsel.

Yet I still find Christmas a bit trying. I have learned, rather than to be sucked underneath by a feeling, to ask myself why I am feeling it. It is from here that enlightenment comes.

Why:
  • Historically, Christmases were a bit trying, or a bit lonely.
  • It is a time when I have to deal with my immediate family en masse. Though we are not hostile, there are fundamental differences which cause discomfort and friction.
  • I am not really comfortable with the excesses and the waste afterwards. Food in the bin and presents you have no conceivable reason to use.
  • The crowds in the shops, the marketing, the lack of parking - it's all just overwhelming.
  • People driving like arsehats.
  • One tends to reflect on the year as a whole, on what one has done versus what one wished for a year ago.
  • Recently, the trouble in the world - it can feel a bit crass to celebrate.
Herein is what I have done to manage (and even slightly embrace) this time of year.
  • I remember some of the better Chrissies we had as kids, with the extended family, full up on turkey and ham, playing Cricket in the backyard.
  • Have randoms/friends as well as family members around. These keep everybody on their best behaviour.
  • My family have had a no xmas present policy, except for littlies. It's great, and takes the stress offa everyone.
  • I do the other shopping online. I buy, where possible, experiences rather than things.
  • I go to the shops at non-busy periods.
  • I plan meals around leftovers, and choose things that will keep a few days, to minimise food wastage.
The year has been a roller coaster. This time last year, I would've wished for a little 'un to inject the real meaning of the time. It was not to be, but I will have my gorgeous little niece.

I was at a Christmas lunch on the weekend. Each year, my PhD supervisor throws a party, buys pressies for the littlies, and has one of the blokes dress up as Santa to give the pressies out. This year my fella got the tap on the shoulder. I just want to say that my fella rocked it as Santa, the kids loved him, and he even nailed the Santa voice. One kid was most impressed with the fact that Santa wore Converse kicks. It freakin' well made my day.

Anyway - what are you guys up to?
Any other coping strategies?
Best Chrissy Evah?

Monday, 23 November 2015

How is it actually nearly freakin' December?

I write the date down lots of times per day. 24/11/2015, for example. I find myself constantly marvelling at how quickly the year has gone.

Melbourne is doing its spring thing, and coughing up four seasons in, if not one day, then one week. Still, there is plenty of very pleasant weather, in which we can enjoy outdoor pursuits, such as drinking a vino and eating some food truck food at the newly opened food van place. With the fella and the dog.





After a cold winter, I am loving and taking comfort in the sunshine.

I am also taking comfort in the fact that the PhD is very nearly in the can. I just need to make some small formatting changes, get it signed off by the Head of Department, and have it printed and bound in leather. It will then sit on a shelf where, with any luck, it will never see the light of day again.

It has been a roller coaster of a couple of weeks. There have been wins but there have been losses and frustrations. I have tried to roll with it as best I can. Be grateful and happy about the wins, and feel the losses.
It's been that kind of a year. I would never wish a year away, or write it off. I don't think it's even worth wishing the next year will be different. No joy without the pain, etc.

I have been playing the very proud Auntie. Looking at pics of my little niece makes me feel happy. However I had some news that a friend (not really a close one) had become pregnant unexpectedly. It was, unexpectedly, a big mental wollop. I felt like I had been actually slapped upside the head.

The socially appropriate response is "eeeeee, that's fantastic", but what you really feel like saying is "congratulations, now kindly fuck off". Harsh, but realistic.

I tried to find a meme to express my feelings, alas there are none forthcoming. I did not even want to really talk about it to people, because they would say "oh don't worry, you'll have a baby soon enough" and that will really not help at all. So I just sit with it myself, or reach out to a friend who I know will get it. Oh, and share it on the interwebs.

Once again, it's helpful just to ride these feelings out, rather than feel guilty because they are not the socially sanctioned responses. I'm not alone here, I don't think.

Planning more than about 6 months in advance is hard, which makes it all the more important to enjoy the here and now. To plan little nice things regularly. Like the trip to Sydney this weekend. There is indeed lots to be grateful for.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Good Stuff. Investment Advice. Paris.

I went and saw my lovely little niece on Saturday, and had cuddles. It was a very beautiful experience, and great to see my sister taking it all in her stride, and baby boobin' like a champion. I feel that what I write on the blog cannot really do justice to it, so I will leave it at this. I am a very proud Auntie and show the pics to anyone who will look and squee.

I won my first research grant in my own name. This is also a great and somewhat scary thing. It makes me feel good about my choice to continue my research.

But Paris.

Oh Paris.

I feel as horrified about this as everybody else, and empathise as much as anybody who has not been in the situation can.

I won't be praying for Paris though, because (pardon my French) it won't do shit.

I found it really hard to know what to do. I don't really think I can express my feelings about it on social media, as it will come out all wrong.

I remember, back in 2003, being against the invasion of Iraq. I had little understanding of the religious and sectarian divides (still don't), but I didn't think that Saddam had any weapons of mass destruction, and that it was all about oil, and that it would come back to bite us. I was also deeply uncomfortable with the prospect of collateral damage in the form of the death and brutalisation of innocent civilians.

12 years later, the innocent civilians continue to be brutalised and displaced, or have died. There was a power vacuum that led to the development of a fundamentalist Islam organisation based in multiple sites, with multiple heads. An organisation that will be very difficult to defeat, at least without significant collateral damage, and more civilians who are brutalised. They will see bombs from the West, and they will be angry. I don't see how it can end peacefully.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The invasion of Iraq, and the propping up of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and many other military incursions have shown us this. I don't know what it is that we do, but think it needs to be different to continued aggression.

So I went and got Financial Advice today. What does that have to do with Paris and Wars? Why the 180? Bear with me.

I went and got a free advice session from a planner in my superannuation fund. It was very helpful.

At the end, I was asking about where the funds were invested. I asked about Tobacco. The adviser told me that a Melbourne Oncologist kicked up a stink when she found out that the super fund of most doctors invested in tobacco. The fund did the modelling and found that it was better to pull out of tobacco company investment.

The adviser added, quite matter of factly "but we do fund Arms Dealers". He told me about a socially responsible investment stream that has comparable return to the default investment strategy.

I had a think about this going home on the bus. (I have discovered the bus from near my house into the city and I love it).

Arms Dealers? Like Nic Cage on "Lord of War" arms dealers? I could only think of one - Lockheed Martin, in the US. I Googled Arms Manufacturing Firms, and got a big list on Wikipedia.

Clearly, war, or "defence" is a big, big business, and this had not ever occurred to me. It's big money for a handful of the rich and powerful. It's not in their interest for there to be peace. I shudder to think of the part they play in the decision making process regarding whether to start military attacks against countries, such as we have seen with France retaliating against Syria.

I am aware that many companies do things that we find objectionable. But at the end of the day, people make the choice to smoke, or drink cola, and if they are lucky, they get the super profitable drug.

The civilians of the nations that are bombed get no choice in it. They are then provided arms to go and bomb and kill and maim in kind.

I really don't want any part of it.

Generally speaking the world doesn't really care what I have to say. But the powers that be do care, very much, about my money. In world terms, I have a lot of it. I won't be investing in these companies.

Hopefully others will consider the same; it will achieve more than what a red white and blue status picture ever will.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

From the Jet Set

Greetings from Dubai. A quick catch up.

I have just been to a conference in Istanbul. I presented a poster. It was a reasonably good conference. Beautiful hotel.

I am now the Aunty of a divine little niece, who was overdue and born after an emergency c-section. Mum and bub are now doing well and niece is feeding like a champion. I can't wait to meet her. Squeee.

I had a cheeky vino, solo, last night in the rooftop bar, overlooking the beautiful city of Istanbul. Some quiet tears were shed - happy, sad and grateful. It's hard to explain, and I appreciated being alone with it.

People are congratulating me on being an aunty. That's weird. It's not like I did anything. I am just the sister of the mum.

Back to work when I get home. Turning the PhD around, churning what will hopefully be some good papers out, and going through the daily grind. No further overseas trips are planned at this stage. I may go mad.



Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Penang. PhD Progress

Oh Hai.

I have just got back from a week in Penang.

Penang is in Malaysia. It is near Thailand but is not Thailand, just to clarify (people asked me).

To summarise, we ate, we drank, and we sat our bum by the pool (there being jellyfish in the ocean and all). I read books and tried to beat the advanced computer on my iPhone scrabble.

I think the advanced computer is a cheater. It makes up words.

We bitched about the haze enveloping Malaysia and Singapore from bushfires in Indonesia. We only saw the sun on the day before we left.

We walked around, like mad dogs and Englishmen, in the midday sun. It was hot and humid and yucky and there were no people around. So we did the only sensible thing and retired to the local hotel bar for a beer. Hydration being paramount and all.

We partook of nightly happy hour. 5:30 to 7pm free beer, wine and cocktails. The waiter, Chan, was a very bad man and relentlessly topped up our drink.

As always, pictures are worth a thousand words. Here are some. They are mostly food.

My view for most of the vacay
Cendol being made

Hokkien Mee, Poh Piah and Char Koay Teow, at Hawker Market


Some street art, Armenian St
More street art, Armenian St


Frier in action. The products were delicious 


Still more pics are on insta. Thankyou to all those who "liked" them.

So I had the results back on the PhD. Long story short, one good report and one very critical, however long story short I need to make some reasonably minor changes and respond to general comments, and the changes only need go back to the local chairman of examiners at our uni, not to the external examiners. The chairman will sign off and it's signed, sealed and delivered with a floppy hat on top!


I am quite the Jetsetter at the moment, and am off to Turkey for a conference on Monday. All of this brief and business travel has whetted my appetite for adventure travels from days of yore. I want to go to Israel and Jordan, and do the Inca Trail. I want to see all the places and eat all the things. Some folks look at shoes and jewels, I look at the Intrepid travel website.

Though my tolerance for discomfort during travel has diminished in my older age.

How are youse? Where have you been and what are you doing?

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Grace.

You may remember my reaction to my sister's announcement of her pregnancy.

You will probably remember what happened with mine.

It's a hard situation, but I think I have found my peace with it, for the moment.

My sister's baby is imminent. I drove about 80km to see her yesterday, and spend some time with her. We had a lovely time, and bonded. Perhaps the closest we have ever been. My big sister protective instinct has kicked in, and I spoiled her a bit yesterday. Bought the baby a teddy bear, a purple Care Bear. I would've loved a Care Bear as a little girl, but they were too spenny.

As I've mentioned, my sister and I are chalk and cheese, and we have clashed many, many times. I have tried very hard to be supportive to her during this pregnancy, while still honouring my own emotions.

It has involved listening, and saying things like "how do you feel?", "how are you coping?" and "what do you need?", rather than telling her what to do and feel. I know she is feeling anxious, as most first time mothers do, plus they are in a financially very tight situation already.

I got the same treatment back, yesterday. She asked me how I was feeling about the miscarriage thing, listened as I told her about some recent career wins. She didn't try and say "oh don't worry you'll be pregnant again soon". We punned and swore and giggled.

When I got back, I received a text. Care Bear was placed in the cot, awaiting her little friend:





This made me very emotional.

This has been hard, but I have learned the true meaning of grace, and I am proud of this.

I am very much looking forward to being an Auntie.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Darling buds. Doggy music festivals.

I was a bit out of sorts last evening and this morning.

However, as I got into my car to get to work, I saw the first little rosebud of spring. I looked a little closer, focussed and took a picture.



Seeing the first little rose bloom of spring changes nothing, but these things help ground me in the here and now. It defuses imagined crises.

The past weekend brought some glorious weather for a dog-friendly music festival, Dogapalooza.

It was fairly soporific music without bass or many high notes, so as not to distress the woofies. It was just nice to have some chill-time with the fur baby.



There were hipsters, so many hipsters, and their beasts, from a toy chihuahua to a large great Dane the size of a shetland pony. The Dane, lazily lying on his side, rolled on it's back to allow passers by to pat his belly. His paws were massive. I wonder what he costs to feed?



I have been in a bit of pain recently, with my back. It is a longstanding niggle of mine. It used to be on the right side of my lower back, now it has settled in on the left side. I am seeing a myotherapist who is a fellow crossfitter, except she is really good at crossfit. Like, competition grade. I have tight, overdeveloped, overactive quads and hip flexors, and weaker, lazy glutes. It pulls me out of shape. I have to do lots of clams and glute strengthening exercises, which I used to do a lot of when I did pilates but don't worry so much about now. To my detriment, clearly.

It's a short week here in Melb, with a public holiday on Friday, bought back in by our new Premier after show day was "Jeffed"* some years ago. I am using the extra time to attack a few papers and presentations I need to write, and do some weeding. The weeds are taunting me. I asked a person from the grey army to come and give me a quote for the gardening but he got muddled up so I told him not to bother. Some weeding will do me good, anyway.

I am soooooo hanging out for Penang.

* Jeffed =laid to waste or abolished by Jeff Kennett, the 1990s  Victorian Premier with a slash and burn mentality.

And you?
How are your glutes? Lazy like mine? Or taut and functional?
Any nice flowers in your part of town?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The best leader Labor never had.

I write from under a new overlord.

Those of you from Australia - you already know.

It's had a fair smattering of news overseas (with some lambasting of the concept of mid-term deposition of the leader of a party).

I introduce Malcolm Abbbbooooooottttttt

I mean Malcolm Turnbull, the best leader Labor never had. Last night, everywhere in Laborland, faces collectively went into palms. For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, I just don't particularly like Bill Shorten, and I think many echo my sentiment. Turnbull seems the obvious choice for those who can stomach neither Tony nor Bill, and hence he is electoral Kryptonite to the Labor party.

The thought is that he is a better bloke than Tone. He thinks climate change is a thing, he has been on record for saying that he agrees with gay marriage. He is eloquent, clever, charming and rocks a spenny suit like a boss. Barrister, Journo, Successful Businessman, Rhodes Scholar, Lifeguard. You could imagine him facepalming every time Tone said something dumb.

I thought that ole moneybags, with his vast wealth, he can fix the debt and fund some pensions. Later I found he was only worth a measly $180Mil.

I was cautiously hopeful. I was buoyed by his victory speech. The positive notion that these are exciting times, that we as a country can make the most of if we are agile. No stabs at the opposition (Julie took care of that though), no fear, no hate and minimal in the way of cliche.

Just reading the above, though, I am more measured about things.

There is no doubt that MT thoroughly sounded out the party and did some deals before throwing his hat in the ring. It would have been suicide otherwise, and MT has bided his time since Feb.

It was no secret that he was not liked by the Arch-Conservative arm of the Liberal party, the Abetz/Bernardi end of the spectrum. He will have had to cut deals with some of these people. This concerns me.

We wake to a new overlord, and nothing has changed. Different face, better haircut, better suit, but same stuff. Gay marriage will go to a plebiscite after the next election. A grovelling tribute to the Coalition's direct action on climate change.

I know he has to bide his time, but I am not convinced.

He has presided over evisceration of the ABC and a shitty substandard NBN. Will that change? Will 100,000 solar panels pop up toot sweet? Will just get on and allow my gay friends to marry? Will he oversee the selling of our Land/Mines etc to China? Can he 'splain to us just why the economy is so bad, and what he and his merry men (and hopefully more women) will do to save it while minimising pain to the most vulnerable?

[I still have not gotten over Joe and Tone's plan to extend the wait period for the dole to 6 months. Will people have lived on love alone, or will they have beaten us up and stolen our tellies for food? No amount of 'splaining would make that good. Dickheads.]

Why do we even think he is so special for believing in climate change and gay marriage? Supporting these things does not make you special, it makes you not an arsehole. First rule.

Yes he is cleverer and a better salesman.

Yet his smile is appearing more smarmy by the second.

Will the 3 word slogan become the 300 word slogan (thankyou, Barrie Cassidy)

This meme summed it up well


A polished turd is still a turd, and this won't change my vote.

Malcolm Turnbull, I hope you prove me wrong, you silver fox you.

Your thoughts? Happy to hear considered and respectful views from the other side of the fence :D

Thursday, 10 September 2015

On saying no, and its consequences.

Last week was a bit of a stressful week at work. Last Friday arvo, I was asked to do something that made me upset, and I cracked it a bit. I immediately set some boundaries, by group email. Nowadays I try not to make calls while acutely upset but sod it, I'd had enough.

The people it affected were gracious and contrite, and things have changed. This is good.

The first half of the year was so frenetic that I had promised myself that, once the PhD was finished, I would try not to work full time, to have some sessions free.

However, the frenetic pace went on, without me even realising it. One of my employers kept on asking me again and again to act at their bidding. The nocturnal tooth grinding continued. I was starting to dread the weekends, as I had to do work that I missed out on during the week. It took this blog post to get me thinking about my work-life balance, and finally I put it into action last Friday.

It bought up a couple of things:

I didn't know what to do with my spare time. 

There is so much emphasis on being productive and not wasting a moment that we forget that we don't actually have to schedule every minute. We wear busy like a badge of honour, but for what?

I have been thinking about some restorative things I could do. Not exercise; I do enough of that. Reading a book? Drawing a picture? Playing with the dog? God forbid, watching some telly - Series 3 of House of Cards is begging to be binge-watched.

There are things like the dentist, the tax agent, going to the bank.

Calling a friend. I had become more and more intolerant of talking on the phone, preferring to text. I have friends that need chatting with at the moment, so I have done this. 

But people might get angry if I say no.

It might have consequences, and I had to be ready to accept them.

Perhaps I was more angry with myself. That I "should" be up to working full time, plus the weekends. My kind of workplace appears to reward that type of work.

I find saying no stressful, such that I will say yes and do what I am asked as the stress of saying no is greater than the time expended doing the task. I am afraid of being passed over the next time an opportunity comes up, or worse, of appearing like (gasp) a cow.

I am finding that a. people are gonna bitch no matter what I do and b. worthy opportunities will still be available even if you occasionally be assertive.

I have read about the art of saying no for women. It said something about women always having to explain themselves and apologise, where men just say their piece and that is it. Hence I have been recently in the practice of saying no, and taking care not to apologise for standing your ground. I am practicing that too.

I am flexing my "no" muscle. It is scary but it feels good.


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

On family.

I've been thinking about this on and off for a while.
from awkwardfamilyphotos.com

I have always envied people who got along well with their families. As well as loving their family members, they genuinely like them, and would hang out with them for preference. Sometimes I have aspired to be like that with my family, but it has fallen flat in the past and I end up feeling that painful mix of resentment and guilt.

On the other side of the coin, I think it is a terrible shame when there are such deep rifts within families that they no longer speak to or see each other.

My family is somewhere in between. The honest truth is confronting, but it is as such:

We have so little in common, apart from shared origins. We are vastly different in personality. Were there no shared origins, no interaction would ever get past the first contact.

There have been many times in recent years where I have bemoaned the lack of understanding within the family. I am sure my other family members have bemoaned the same thing about me. It all arises from the fact that we are essentially different despite the fact we are family.

Unfortunately, though, you don't get a choice about your family. In my humble opinion, at the end of the day, there is only one thing you have to do, and that is be there when they really need you. Of course you love them, but what is love without action?

Beyond this, I keep interactions pleasant and reasonably frequent, but brief and superficial. I listen, smile, nod and make the appropriate sounds, without offering much in the way of advice. I offer practical help.

I've stopped trying to rationalise or understand how they do things. I don't like being told what to do, and apply that rationale to them. I offer gentle but firm explanations of my boundaries when that comes up.

It might sound a bit cold, but it makes for peace and calm, and ultimately a more functional relationship.

What about you?

Saturday, 22 August 2015

I'm still here....

Oh hai.

I have been here, I have been fine, I have been kicking around instagram, but I have not gotten the head of steam to blog. My thoughts have not been able to form themselves into a coherent post. Today, since it's been so long since I've blogged, it's gonna be a bit of a mish mash.

I have handed in my PhD. Many people say "Oh, you must be relieved". Relieved isn't really the word. It is but one part of the research journey.

When I was pregnant, my thoughts were often directed to my future with baby. After the miscarriage, I ploughed a lot of energy into getting the PhD done, then finding something for myself to do in lieu. Friends, I am in the process of being appointed a postdoctoral fellow, part time.

Is this trying to sublimate/cover up my feelings re the m/c? Probably. But I cope with things by changing tack quickly. We fall down, we get up, and we run in a slightly different direction.

The research is hard work. I am already in the process of applying for outside funding, plus getting data together for papers, plus putting abstracts in for conferences. It pays far less than what I can earn. Yet it is something I enjoy, it's a self-actualisation thing. It plays to my nerdier and occasionally misanthropic tendencies (yes I have both).

And, if not now, then when? Gotta take advantage of the opportunities as they arise, am I right?

I am in dire need of another holiday, yes I know it wasn't long ago I was in Spain but that was partly work and when you work over weekends, the need for a holiday comes very quickly.

To this end, we are off to Penang in Oct.





This is a pic of Batu Ferringhi beach. Looks rather idyllic, but apparently absolutely teeming with jellyfish. Might just stick to the pool.

A hundred things to do in Penang, and, from my Malaysian friends, at least 93 of these things involve food. The rest involve hanging out by the pool or other body of water...very much looking forward to going.

Then a conference in Istanbul in November. Better get my finger out and write that paper. Boss has to let me go there if I have a paper in....

~~~~~~~~~~
You know that whole thing about summer bodies being made in winter, well, since the PhD has been handed in, I have been giving that a bit more thought, because, you know, bikini and Penang. Hence I have been training like a demon at crossfit.





Yes I know the bad rap that crossfit gets, I know all the crossfit jokes ("If you are a vegan and a crossfitter, which do you talk about first?" etc).

But bloody ell I love it. I have been doing it of a morning and I just feel like a boss (pronounced baaaawwwwwwwssssss) all day. My pull ups are coming along, I am starting to get more confident with jumping on boxes, and I delight in telling my skinny friends that I would be able to deadlift them (last week I did a 60kg x 7 rep). Next, double unders and world domination.

I love that, without any particular running training, I can go out and run fairly comfortably whenever I like. I went for a little trot round the 'tan with my friend this morning, and it was magnificent. Melbourne has got the memo about it being spring soon and is starting to flirt a little. It has been a long, cold winter and errrrybody looked so happy to be out and about.

I cannot help but admire my new guns when I shower. Oh yes I do.

And they play punk rock or thrash metal while you work out, and that gets me in the mood big time.

My burpees are coming along.


I am feeling very confident in my skin, that is probably the best thing.

I have decided that it is also time to stop the snacking while writing. Hence I am drinking lots of herbal tea....

On the hippie vein, I am also doing yoga, to stretch out those enlarging muscles. I always start out like "na can't be arsed with this, too hippy" and finish out like "I feel marvellous". I never thought I'd see the day.


Anyway I can sense some eyes starting to glaze over at this point.

Being the beginning of spring, I am considering doing a wardrobe cull next weekend. If I don't feel fab in it, out it goes. I have stopped asking people how I look in things, because if I don't feel all "bam" in it, I won't wear it. 'Cept for tracky daks, which I am proudly rocking now.

I need to curate a good work/conference/doing talks wardrobe - "sharp and clever with a bit of quirk" is the look I am going for. Anyone got any ideas?

PS - After I wrote my little outburst re Puffer Jackets I found one at Witchery and luffed it sick so I bought it and I still luff it sick.

Monday, 3 August 2015

RIP, my namesake.

When I introduce myself, it goes a little something like this:

Me: "Hello, I am Cilla"

Them: "Oh Hi Celia".

Me: "No, Cilla. C-I-L-L-A"

Them: "Is that short for Priscilla?"

Me: "No, Cilla is the name on my birth certificate".

Them: "What nationality is that?"

Me: "British. As in Cilla Black, the singer. That's who I was named after."

(their response will depend on how old they are, if they are 45 or over, no further explanation is required)

I was very sad to hear that my namesake, Cilla Black, had passed away at age 72. That is not very old, and I had no idea she was ill.

She was very much loved in the UK, for her bubbly personality, common touch, big heart and bigger voice. I don't have the big voice (cept for maybe in my car) but the other things I can aspire to.

RIP Cilla Black.

.....................

Oh yeah, I have submitted my thesis.



Keen for other pursuits, I baked a Lemon Meringue pie, made with the surfeit of lemons we have


Celebratory dinner at a nice restaurant tomorrow, and off to the Dandenongs on the weekend.

That'll be all for tonight.

Q and A will be good tonight - no politicians so should be a good 'un.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Sleeveless Puffer Jackets.

It's been a while.

Only a short time till the extended festival of PhD completion can start (with any luck, tomorrow evening, I can submit electronically). I will keep you posted regarding festival activities.

It's freaking chilly in Melbourne, like the coldest July in 20 years or something. I would like to say that I have neglected to wax my eyebrows in order to keep my face warm, but it is just laziness.

Everywhere, everywhere, I see sleeveless puffer jackets. They are on trend (or "on point" or "on fleek", to use the vernacular).



Ok I enjoy a trend as much as the next person, but I just can't do this.

Firstly, I feel that my arms are as deserving of warmth as my trunk.

Secondly, I don't need the puffiness. I need smart tailoring or flowy layers.

They are impractical for exercise, as I get hot very quickly.

Unflattering and impractical.

Can somebody please explain the whole sleeveless puffer thing to me? Thx.

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Idiot Box.

It sounds like a cliche, but this time, crunch time, is like the end of a marathon. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel but I am hurting like fuck. My mind is up to the numerous challenges I have (new work, PhD completion, grant writing etc) but during these times of stress, my body shows it.

I get an awful crick in my neck and back from sleeping like a tense mummy, some headaches, and a stress rash on my feet (it's called pompholyx and it's an actual thing). My feet aren't as bad as the pic, but you get the idea.

It's important for me to give myself some physical challenges during these mentally challenging times. Actually most of the physical challenges are mental challenges as well, and it is super rewarding to face them.

I'm talking about de crossfit, people.

Lots of the exercises we do in the sessions are actually variations on things we should have been good at as kids, but I had my head in a book. Things like handstands, pull ups, jumps.

I am super proud to say I am mastering the pull up, and needing less and less support from the elastic bands. I can do a deep squat like a champion without putting strain on my knees or back, and with increasing amounts of weight on the barbell.

I would love to be able to do a handstand, but this is a little way off.

One thing that scares the bejeezus out of me is the box jump. That is jumping onto a 20 inch box, or, right now, for me, it is 3x25kg weight plates stacked up, at a height of about 10 inches.

I don't yet have the appropriate power to weight ratio to get up to 20 inches, and I am working on that by gradually increasing the height of the platform.

The much more difficult thing is the head thing. I am so scared of falling over, of hurting myself (even typing that makes that fear less powerful). The head thing is what limits me most in terms of my physical prowess.

I came across this article on the webs. I am inspired. I will imagine my footsies steadfastly atop the platform. In order to stave off the ravages of ageing, we need to (safely) move more like a child.

In terms of the other idiot box, I am loving Masterchef. Marco is back and I don't like him, but I still enjoy the show.

Do you take yourself out of your physical and mental comfort zone?
What thing do you wish you could do? Splits? Handstand? Pirouette?

Friday, 3 July 2015

Adaptation and perspective.

To all of you from Sydney and Bris who are complaining that it is freezing, please spare a thought for us down here in Melbourne.

Particularly poor folk like me who have come from the gentle warmth of the European summer back to a chillier than usual winter in Melbourne.

So I have gone from this:



To this:





It's a shock to the system, but I am getting there. I am even beginning to get my head around post PhD work life. Getting back to reality has been hard, and I had a bit of "woe is me" time this week. It passed.

I've heard it said that the species who survive the best are the ones best able to adapt. And my nanna had a picture that said "things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out"

So that year out with baby that I planned may not materialise, and I don't know when it will. It makes it hard to plan, but I am doing my best to secure gainful, flexible and rewarding employment (Ha!), and enjoying what I have. In this environment, things for everyone are getting harder, with budgets tightening, and opportunities diminishing, even for the highly trained. It can get discouraging, but I am nothing if not adaptable. It is one of my strengths. Plans A, B and C are in progress.

I have even registered for a short fun run. I have lost a bit of running fitness with one thing or another, it's now time to get it back.

I realise I live in a bit of a rarified environment. I roll with many people who are highly educated, highly paid, secure and successful people, who appear to "have it all". I realise what a trap that can be, both from the point of view that you lose your perspective of what is reasonable in life, and that those who "have it all" often don't. I am happy to say that I mostly stay away from that trap, and resist the temptation to "keep up with the Joneses".

This morning I had an acute dose of perspective. My sister is now getting heavily pregnant. She has developed a painful inflammatory condition of the wrist, and now cannot perform her job as a waitress, or pick up her little dog (doesn't bode well for baby). She has to see a plastic surgeon and that is expensive, and she has not two pennies to rub together.

One of the things that drove me to achieve as I did was the motivation to avoid the financial situation I grew up in (ie with not two pennies to rub together). It breaks my heart to see my sister struggle like this, and I know how common it is.

It was a timely reminder that my situation really is good.

I have also done my bit to ensure my little niece has a mumma whose wrist works.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Back, and hitting the ground running. My guide to Barcelona.

Very quiet on the blog, but if you follow me on Instagram you will see that I enjoyed myself in Barcelona.

I got home early this morning, and had a cuddle with my partner. He joined me for a few days after his conference in Copenhagen, but he headed home a couple of days before me. The dog was also very pleased to see me, and is cuddling up to me on the couch as I type.

I really did have a good time, a healing time. At the start, on my own in a big city and jetlagged, I had a bit of an existential "what is this all worth" type thing. I still felt very raw from what had gone on barely a few days before. A few tears dribbled down my cheeks as I walked the Rambla de Catalunya for the first time (well since I visited in early 2010). I had sunglasses on.

I then had a "na, fuck that" moment. While acknowledging the grief I felt, I made a decision to make the best of the situation, to cherish that time alone in a magnificent city. I had worked hard for it.

The here and now is all we really have.

I walked and walked, and walked some more. Everywhere, for hours. My fitbit tells me I averaged 18,000 steps per day. I felt and enjoyed the warm breeze and the sun on my shoulders.  I ate my body weight in Tapas and Jamon, and sampled all the Sangria.


The first, and the best.


I delivered my paper at the conference, and it was well received. The conference itself was a bit meh. Australians do conferences well, I think.

Here are some of the things I did. Those of you thinking of visiting Barcelona may use this as advisory.

Shopping:
Spain is known for it's retailers Zara and Mango. However the clothes are often poorly constructed, poorly cut and the prices are fairly global. Shoes are a better bet; I bought two pairs. Positively restrained. I bought a pair of Camper sandals. Camper shoes can err on the side of a bit ugly but are generally superior in comfort. I also bought a pair of earrings made by an independent jeweller






Gold plated with smokey quartz. Excuse my lady-beard...

Europe and Asia are slightly more competitive for cosmetics prices - I shouted myself a Lancome mascara and their magic cushion, both beautiful.

Wandering
The Barri Gotic, the old town or Gothic Quarter, is a dense scattering of streets just south of Plaza Catalunya. There are a few main streets as anchors, but it is easy to get lost in those charming little streets, and I did. I went to the Picasso museum, and, seeing the queues, booked ahead online. The other

Ooooh look, a Gothic Cathedral.

The Barri Gotic as it is now was build atop an old Roman Empire City, parts of which could be seen in the Barcelona History Museum; the excavation sits below the building, and you take the elevator down and wander about on a boardwalk thingy, which is rather cool.

The wine vats.




There were lots of little dogs to pat. I met this fella, a friend to one of the shopkeepers in a small square near the History Museum

I didn't catch his name. Possibly Ernesto? Ernie for short.

So long as there was a baseline level of concentration (the cars being on the other side and all), all of the streets were ripe for a wander. The people watching, as my friend Faux Fuchsia would say, is 11/10.

Jamon
I ate a fair bit of this, hence I went to learn a little about it, to "Jamon Experience". There was a slightly twee exhibition of how the best Jamon, the Jamon Bellota, is made (free range pigs of a certain breed who are allowed to roam freely and feast on acorns, aged for 36 months). After the twee exhibition, a tasting was offered.


Remember: Jamon Bellota.

A bit of Gaudi
Antoni Gaudi was the famous 19th century Architect, who drew inspiration from nature and religion, and eschewed straight lines. People associate him with the Sagrada Familia, which is still being constructed. I found it a bit ugly from the outside, so, having been in there before, I didn't go in this time.



I saw Casa Mila (Pedrera), from the outside.


We went into Park Guell


And the highlight was going in Casa Batllo:


If you go to Barcelona, you should definitely go in, best Audioguide ever and well worth the 22 Euro cost.

The other really cool thing I did when my partner was there was catch the Funicular from the Waterfront out to Montjuic. The Bar at the top of Montjuic makes the best Patatas Bravas in Barcelona.

Here are some other random pics:

Whiling away the evening with a Sangria, Placa Reial.

the wine in the supermarket was super cheap.

The hospital at which the conference was held. I know! It's a hospital!

Have any of you been to Barcelona?
What was your favourite thing?

Thursday, 11 June 2015

I wasn't angry, until......

People had said that it was normal after a miscarriage to feel angry, jealous and resentful of other fecund women.

I really hadn't!

I survived trips to the local shops at mother/bubba in pram peak hour. Though on balance I would have preferred not to see them, I did not dissolve into tears, and I even mustered a smile at some of them.

On that front, I was fine. I am putting some finishing touches on my chapters.I went to get some lunch.

I stopped and had a look at the magazines, and saw the botoxed mug of this person





SHE is fucking pregnant.





As you were.....

Hello, am OK.

I am back on my feet after yesterday's procedure. Not as strong or robust as I would've like to have been, or felt I was this morning, but on my feet nonetheless.

Fairly minor sort of procedure - done as a day case, general anaesthetic. The Ob/Gyn was a friend of a friend (it's a small world), and was lovely. She knew I was planning on flying off to Barcelona on Sunday, and said I could, short of any complications. During/after the procedure, she was a little concerned (possibly paranoid, as Murphy's law tends to apply to doctors as patients) that a complication may have occurred. She was completely upfront, and has been ringing me to check that I am ok, and put me on some antibiotic horse-pills.

To both of our relief, I have recovered well, physically, making the complication she was concerned about unlikely. I am able to be up and about, with minimal discomfort today. I even wrestled with walked the dog. I went into work to tie up some loose ends.

Getting out of the house was harder than I appreciated. At work I shut myself in my office, played music on Rdio and had a little cry. But I got some shit done. I have more shit I want to do, but not tonight. If ever there was a time I could procrastinate, it is now.

Apart from the tangible loss of the pregnancy, I am feeling a less tangible loss. I was surprised and quite delighted by how, in it's early stages at least, pregnancy agreed with me. I had a twinkle in my eye, and an easy, wide smile. I am normally a fairly cheerful person, but I felt ebullient. I am noticing the difference now.

I mentioned the other day that I was trying not to fall down the rabbit hole of wondering what I have done wrong. The other potential rabbit hole I am now trying to avoid is that regarding the next pregnancy, the "what if it happens again" question. It does not help to think too far into the future; not about that anyway.

Still, the plans I had, we had, have necessarily shifted. It is my habit to try to find the potential for good in any situation. We adapt as we need to.

And, having already made my peace with minimal vino and no jamon in Barcelona, now I can make the most of all the culinary offerings "EAT ALL THE THINGS". I am nothing if not glass-half full, especially if said glass contains a nice wine.

If one must cry, it helps to do it into a glass of Veuve Clicquot, am I right?

Seriously though, I am letting myself feel this. In my own way. There are worse places to grieve, though, than the sunny streets of Barcelona. In my sadness and disappointment, I am well aware of my blessings.

I am not one to gush in this forum, but I have to say, the care I received in the hospital was magnificent,  as have been my family and friends.

My dear partner has been so, so wonderful (I tear up as I type this). I have told him this, repeatedly.

And tomorrow is another day.

Your comments on my last post helped me enormously, so thank all of you xxx. For me, it is easier to talk about things like this in this forum than face to face, if that makes any sense. I feel a bit more able to express myself in an authentic way.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Hello

My blog posts of late were all a mish mash of the grind of the final throes of thesis writing, and my excitement regarding going overseas, and some brags about my crossfit exploits.

They were hiding something more important, more exciting.

About 6 weeks ago, when I was thinking of what I would do with my pimply skin, and considering some definitive treatment, I had to have a pregnancy test.

It was positive.

Shock gave way to joy. Joy like I had never felt before. I walked around with a big dopey smile on my face. I was excited about having a baby close to my sister (she is having a little girl, squeeee)

I was so well. Full of energy. No nausea to speak of. Food tasted good. I didn't even miss wine that much. My mood was good, no doubt the pregnancy hormones agreed with me. I was enjoying it.

The only thing that was annoying was the fact that I had to go piddle every two seconds. I still did my running and jumping, being careful to empty my bladder before. I reveled in my wellness.

Among the joy of it, I felt vulnerable in a way that I never had before. Aware of how open to twists of fate I was. I felt sometimes a bit like a precious, breakable vessel, an unfamiliar feeling. The love within my heart expanded to a tenderly heartbreaking level, and I felt acutely grateful for the people I had around me, especially my partner.

As a break from my thesis, I would trawl the literature on pregnancy. There are a lot of beliefs about what is bad in pregnancy, and I was trying to get a feel for the facts. I became well appraised of what the risks of coffee, wine, cheese and diet soft drinks. I had also started to look at stretchy garments. I had been a conscientious objector to Jeggings, but had overcome this because by Gosh, they are comfy.

A week and a bit ago, we went to see the obstetrician. We had the viability scan. A small, healthy little blob with a heartbeat. Miscarriage rate down to 10% or less at that point.

The little blob with the heartbeat had a lot of hopes and dreams attached to it. It's natural.

I spent all weekend working on my thesis, so going back to work this morning was almost a break.
I had been feeling a bit dizzy, nothing out of the ordinary, and a twinge in my lower abdomen. Happens.

At work this morning, I had some bleeding. I told my co-workers and burst into tears.

An ultrasound was arranged. The secretary at the ultrasound centre, sensitive to the situation, offered to sit me in the quiet room. I declined, tough. I sat and read old magazines.

The scan showed an outline similar to what I understood from the "what to expect" websites. Except this time it was amorphous. There was no heartbeat, and I was informed that the fetus had stopped growing.  The obstetrician came in and confirmed that I had miscarried.

There is no anger, just sadness. Gratitude and hope too. Efforts not to fall down the rabbit hole of how I could've done something to avoid this, knowing intellectually there was something beyond my control.

I just have to feel the feels, and let the tears come as they need to. The only way out is through. We will get there.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Hard Yards, the Home Stretch...then BCN!

Hello from dreary Melbourne.

Melbourne put on some craptacular weather during the last week, with the mercury some days not really going abouve 10 degrees.

This made going outside, or exercising, seem ridiculous. I got some steps in at the shopping centre. Carrie Bradshaw was right, and shopping is actually cardio.

The weather has made it all the more appealing to sit inside and get the last throes of the thesis written. It really is like the last bit of a 10km fun run, like from about 8.5km, where you feel tired, but too excited about the finish to drop the pace. You want to pick the pace up and do a magnificent sprint finish.

I am nearly there, friends. Just one more results chapter, which should not take too long. I don't know whether I should re-read all my chapters and do the conclusions chapter, so I might leave it till after Barcelona.

Barcelona, people!

I am off next Sunday evening. I am super excited, and planning some gadding about as well as the conference. I am craving the sunlight and novelty, as the "rat in a cage" feeling is mounting here at home. I've been to BCN a few years ago, but that was during winter. I am planning to visit the Sagrada Familia again, as that is a work in progress. I would also like to do a bike tour. I have had some bikini line "surgery" performed so that I can go swimming in the pool of the hotel I am staying at for the first couple of days. Swimming (or really just splashing about in the pool) really says holidays to me.

At the present, I am at work, just psyching myself up to write my presentation that I am giving at the conference. I am also excited to be sharing my research with an international audience.

Well I had better get on to it!

Do any of you have some tips for things to do in BCN?

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Good Kiwi Things.

Despite the gentle ribbing and sheep jokes and taking the pi55 out of the accent (fush and chups, bro) there is a very genuine affection between Australia and New Zealand. Must go back to the ANZACs. I am forthcoming in saying that NZ is ahead of Australia in some things; Marriage Equality, environmental friendliness and, dare I say it, the Rugby.

My fella is Kiwi, and he is orright, too.

This week has been a big week, full of a few good Kiwi things.

NZ punches above its weight in terms of making good music, to the point that we will adopt some bands as our own. One of which is Crowded House. There are very few people who don't like Crowded House, or Split Enz. Such catchy and eclectic music, something for everyone there, and some of the songs are just made for karaoke nights.

On Wednesday, we went to see Crowded House frontman Neil Finn at the Recital Centre.



There was a lot of love in the room. It was Neil's birthday, and a few songs in, somebody shouted "Happy birthday" and passed a present and a card to the stage. The room erupted in a chorus of Happy Birthday. Neil, in his sheepish way, sort of smiled and shuffled his feet. Later, he became bolder, bantering with the Audience and showing a sense of humour. He played piano, played the guitar, and even trotted out a string orchestra. He even picked a member of the audience to play a few notes on the piano to accompany him.

One of my favourite songs from the set was this one. Take the time to watch the video, it is one of the most cleverly arranged songs I have ever heard.


He also did a beautiful stripped-back version of "Message to My Girl", the audience burst into applause when the first piano riffs of the song were played. I struggle not to cry when I hear this song, particularly when stripped back and heartfelt like he played it.

It was a magic night, one of the best concerts I have been to, and the Audience were on their feet afterward.

I confess to harbouring a bit of a crush; he has aged well, even better than my other ageing crush, Johnny Farnham.

The other good Kiwi thing this week:






We has a dishwasher! It is a Fisher and Paykel, and the knowledgeable of you might know F&P are (were) a Kiwi brand. The Parent company is now Haier, a Chinese company.

As far as I am concerned, the house is complete for the time being. I hate washing dishes, my talents lying elsewhere.

The weekend has been taken up with being a mock examiner for the physician exams, and thesis writin'. No rest for the wicked, etc.

Any good things for you recently?

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The End Is Nigh. Masterchef.






So the end-date has been set and the clock is ticking....10/8/2015 is the due date for submission of the thesis, but I hope to get a full draft to the supervisors prior to me going to Barcelona in mid-June. I am now officially balls to the wall, trying to get it done. Goodbye weekends for the time being. I respond well to a deadline, particularly with something nice like a big trip afterward!

I am super looking forward to Barcelona. For the first couple of nights, I have booked a nice hotel with a pool so I can get over my jetlag. There is this whole thing about "earthing", getting your feet onto grass, sand or into water is very therapeutic in treating jetlag.

I also look forward to the Barcelona sunshine. Here in Melbourne, the weather has got the winter memo a bit early, and it is a bit foul. I am craving cosy knits, soups and thick socks. And, as always, chocolate

One TV show that speaks to me of winter is Masterchef. It is about the only reality show that I am able to tolerate, although I get super stressed out when the contestants stuff up or get close to time.

It is Marco week on Masterchef. Old Marco Pierre White. I actually don't particularly like him, he looks like he is acting as a baddie in a C grade drama. The "nice" words he has with the contestants are entirely unconvincing. In fact, the only time I felt he was being himself was when he told a chef (bought in for an immunity challenge) that he "hates" salmon roe and it "ruined" the dish.

We had our garage sale last weekend, and sold some stuff. I am in the process of selling some more stuff on ebay.... super interesting, I am having to measure lots of lengths. I have already had an item "bought" by a Phisher...

Perhaps induced by my deadline, the weekdays seem to whizz by very quickly. I am getting my hair did on the weekend, perhaps a bit shorter.


How do you go with deadlines?
How do you manage jetlag?
What reality shows can you watch?


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Melbourne Chill. Perth. Garage Sale.

Melbourne weather, go home. You are drunk.
Seriously, the forecast maximum for today is 12 degrees. The current temperature in my workplace suburb is about 9 degrees at 2pm. I am sitting doing the PhD thing, feeling very ratty. I would dearly love to go outside and purchase some thinking fuel (ie Chocolate and chips. With coke zero as sugarfree drinks cancel out the calories of the food...right??) but I really don't want to go outside.

I am also counting the days 'til I head off to Barcelona. 34. Barcelona in June will be nice and balmy.

With the recent chill, the dog has been going stir-crazy, as she does not get walkies as frequently. She has taken to licking my partner on the back of the neck, ears and face to try and get his attention. Yet she does not seem to like to go outside when we send her out for a piddle (she sleeps and spends the day indoors, the spoiled thing).

Last week, I was in Perth at a conference. The weather was gorgeous there. I stayed in a hotel on the banks of the Swan river, and this was the view from my room at sunset. Gorgeous, huh!


Despite the enforced sedentariness of a conference, I managed to utilise the hotel gym to work up a sweat. 
I got to present my paper arising from my PhD data, my 15 minutes of fame. It was well-received. I won a young investigator prize. This is me with my prize. It is nice to be recognised by one's peers.






In Perth, I got to see some long-lost cousins, who live there. I hadn't seen them in over ten years. It was wonderful to catch up. Time flies.

But back to reality this week. The cold and the hard work. The end is close but it can be hard to maintain focus and keep faith in what you are doing. Just gotta keep at it.

Our neighbours arranged a whole-street garage sale, which is being held on Saturday. I have a lot of things I want to cull, but they are a bit too nice to put into an op-shop. My partner is the same. We will be spending our evenings price-tagging our goods.

I hope that you are staying warm and dry, wherever you are.
Do you have any tips re running a garage sale?

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Turkish Get-Ups. In defence of trakky daks.

Well happy Sunday to you all!

Melbourne weather had gotten the memo regarding Autumnal weather, with sunny days but crisp mornings, interspersed with the odd bit of rain. However, it has obliged us this weekend with some mild mornings. Such mild mornings are very compatible with leaving the house early (ie 7:45 am) of a Saturday to get some exercise done.

As I think I have bored you with mentioned before, I have really been enjoying Crossfit classes. There are a lot of things I can't do in this class. Jumping onto a 20 inch box is very difficult, for example, and a bit hard on my recovering ankle. However, most exercises can be scaled down then gradually increased as your ability gets better. For instance, I started with jumping on 3 weight plates, about 11 inches off the ground. If I have a lot of jumps to do, I use only 2. I relish the improvement.

The other thing I relish is the new physical skill set. I love being able to do pull ups (even though assisted by bands) and olympic-style weight lifting. A new skill that I learned yesterday was the Turkish Get-Up. I did it without any weight in my hand, to get the movements right. Here it is when somebody does it properly


It is harder than it looks, even without a weight. I went ker-splat a few times. Then, after practice, I got the movement and did 3 in a row, each side. I still wobbled a bit but I did it.

Any complex movement that involves moving your body from flat on the ground to upright in a repeated fashion (eg burpees etc) is very good cardio, as well as working just about every other muscle in the body. These kinds of exercises were developed for the military, as these guys had to get super-fit without a lot of space or equipment. They are great even for us mere mortals!

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Some people are very anti-trakky dak, and won't be seen anywhere with them. That is cool. I have been a long-time lover of the soft pant. Yet as I get older, I get vainer, and now I am after a look that is super comfortable yet nearing trendy. I need weekend outfits that take me from brekky out at hipster cafes, for walks and then, as I am now, to sessions of PhD writing and a bit of stretching during breaks.

Currently the sports luxe look is in. Trakky daks are referred to as Joggers, and some have been appropriated as workwear. I have found a couple of great pairs that can look less bogan with a bit of effort. Behold:




The denim Jacket is from Esprit, the kicks are the most expensive item in the outfit and from Frankie4. The trakky daks are Kmart, $15! Photobombing dog, provenance unknown via the Pound.
Well, I had better get back to doing my PhD writing. On Tuesday I am off to Perth for a conference. I get to present some of my research there, and I am very excited about this. I also get to see some of my Perth-dwelling cousins who I've not seen for ages, and meet up with colleagues at the conference.
I hope that your week goes well.
What have you got planned?

Are you pro trakky daks?<


Friday, 24 April 2015

A soggy ANZAC day in Melbourne.

Hello, friends.

I am typing from my usual Saturday/Sunday position - ie my desk at work. I am multitasking.
  • Writing up a powerpoint presentation, as usual creating too many slides then having to ruthlessly cut back (all killer, no filler). Googling how many slides ought to make up a 10 minute powerpoint presentation (about 14).
  • Reflecting on my week, and contemplating the existence of the "Fuck You" Fairy*. 
I have been "on leave" writing my PhD. However I have dealt with some work things via email. It is a toss up as to which is more painful: writing the PhD or dealing with things from work on a week off.

I am feeling marginally guilty about not having made it to a dawn service, but reflecting on how lucky I was to be able to visit Gallipoli in June last year. I have been looking back through my photos.

Lone Pine Cemetery
The trenches - sometimes they threw grenades, sometimes food and cigarettes
ANZAC Cove from afar
 

It was surreal, walking along that beach, imagining the Diggers landing.
My favourite picture, a verse that resonates with me.


And now to get back to it. I hope you are all enjoying your weekend, wherever you are.


* The Fuck-You fairy is a tongue in cheek thing I made up. Basically it refers to the force that acts when you have made peace with what is and made plans. The fairy flies in, says "fuck you" and you have to change your plans again. The fuck you fairy is not a bad thing, it is kind of like Murphy's law.

What is your version of the fuck you fairy?
And what are you up to this weekend?