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But Not Today...

The Watcher
I've handed in my last assignment for this degree. It feels like a total anti-climax, but I suppose that's what I get for doing the third year all arse-backwards and in about 7 months. If I'd finished at the end of my two months in A&E I suspect the sense of achievement may have been a little higher, especially as I suspect that the academic marks I got for that subject will be higher than for this most recent one (although the written feedback from the preceptors will be similar). Still, in each of these two last semesters I've worked on through some significant adversities, and finished another undergrad degree in 2.5 years. Now to actually get a decent job with either (or both) of them...

Actual registration with the national authority can't happen until results are released by the uni next month, but the task over the next few days is to start trying to get into a grad-program (basically an intern-year for nurses) here, or in the worst case scenario back on the mainland. ';ve also got to talk to the uni about deferring my actual graduation ceremony until the end of the year, and see whether last year's honours offer still stands.

In other news, I finished Mass Effect 2 for the first time today (still with the retro gaming thing). I have one thought and it goes like this...



I've found with 'New Who' (especially when Davies has been writing) that I really object to the blatant and clunky attempts to manipulate my emotions. But just occasionally one of the writers (and Moffat more than any other) will actually land something that I can't parry or dismiss. One that's so perfectly in sync with me, with my beliefs, my desires. And the evil bastard genii that wrote Mass Effect have gone and done the same fucking thing! I hate having party members or crew killed. It's a failure if it happens. One fatality in the first game was bad (and hard) enough - three in this one is bloody unsupportable!

Despite the writers doing their best to pen me into another no-win situation in this game it would appear that there is a way to pull of the final uber-conflict with nobody dying. I suspect that they realise that there are players out there like me who refuse to accept the idea. I also suspect that if the writers hadn't made a 100% survival rate a vague possibility then someone else would have come along and, Kirk-like, written a mod to make it possible.

It's a credit to the creators of the Mass Effect games and universe that I'm having this reaction. They've managed to suck me in to perfection. I care. I want characters to live, and I certainly don't regard any as expendable. I realise this is how it should be after 80 something hours of much more interactive involvement than a movie, but I'm still mad at them. Now I'm off to work out how to make sure that everyone lives.

Gathering Nuts While in May

Bear Woman
My month in an acute psych unit is over. This one has proved to be more intellectually and emotionally draining than the last. I’m not ultimately surprised at that, because it’s minds and emotions that we’ve been dealing with so much more than bodies, but still a noticeable thing. This isn’t to say that problematic interfaces between minds and bodies have been present either, such as the physical or cognitive side-effects of medications; with patients complaining of everything from feeling slower or stupefied to hyper-salivation and neuroleptic malignant syndrome. The more I read about the side-effects of high-dose or long-term antipsychotics such as tardive dyskinesia, the more cautious I feel about their use.

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More Redemption in the Mines of Madness

Bear Woman
Dear LJ, for my birthday I actually to got to break free from the psychiatric ward I've been spending time in for the past month. Freedom included discussing more mentally ill people living in the community in the morning, and then hooning around parts of the Derwent Valley in the afternoon pumping people full of antipsychotics. Sounds like fun, neh?

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Slow Spinning Redemption.

The Watcher
It's taken a good 24 hours for the idea of not being on clinical placement to sink in. Sleep, ice cream and super-hero movies on the box have helped.

It's hardly as if I've been living and breathing nothing but nursing for the past three weeks, but the experience has been intense. I've been reviving parts of my brain and skills in my hands that feel like they've been asleep for years (and unlike the other three, I've got a certain sympathy for Frodo's take on returning to the Shire in this instance). I've been tired, smelly, had aching feet, and unable to completely get rid of images of demented old buggers sitting in viscous lakes of shit from my forebrain. I've punctured skin with sharp bits of steel, gently held down the delirious, discussed the virtues of playing Scrabble on Facebook with a little old lady old enough to be my grandma (she was the one asking if we had a laptop she could use to check her games), pulled on and off more gowns, gloves and masks than I care to remember, laughed at stories of an 18 year old patient scandalising the ward staff when she was sprung in compromising positions with her visiting boyfriend (seriously, what did anyone expect? it's why I always knocked first), and watched a father pleading to make it to his daughter's wedding die slowly from the consequences of alcohol withdrawal.

I imagine in time that it's the social interactions that will stay with me, but for the moment it's the technical skills that are giving me the most pleasure. Partially because I always knew I was good with patients, partially because I'm a student again (and therefore automatically more task-orientated than seeing the big picture), and partially because I haven't had the chance to some of those things for years and I feel like I'm brushing the rust off. It's the little things like reconstituting dried, powdered drugs, and putting a cannula in a vein first time that I haven't done since... I don't know... 2005ish maybe. The skills I knew I had lost, and the things I knew made me a klutz and someone who could talk the talk but tripped over all the time during the walking bit. Those things that lurked in the back of my brain and made me doubt everything else all over again. I have some of them back again now, and I see a way to get others back in due course. And get better than I ever had the chance to be before.

That's an exultant kind of feeling. I'm reluctant to let it go, after all the years of doubt and deskilling.

And the other stuff is there anyway, and has never left in quite the same ways. I know I have the people skills. I know I have the attitudes. I have the language. I can connect the dots when it comes to pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatments as well as anyone else. But it's the confidence to do what I regard as the 'little' things, like get vascular access or move through the multiple layers of checks for drug administration like clockwork every time, that I've needed and haven't had for a long time.

Some of the feedback I've received while on placement is that I am not only a notably reflective practitioner, but that I can be too hard on myself. Well, duh! ;( It's always been a risk with me, when I spend so much time looking inward and thinking and second guessing what I see; but in this case I do hold myself to a higher standard than the average 2nd year nursing student. I have done this before, and should be doing it well automatically. Not entirely realistic on my part perhaps, but it's there all the same. And while I haven't demonstrated the mastery of skills I once had to my complete satisfaction, I haven't done all badly either.

I am satisfied. I am grateful. I am feeling...


The Watcher
We've been here just over a month now. It doesn't seem that long, but the days have kind of blurred into each other a bit. For every maintenance task that's been started, another two or three have had to be done first, just so that I can get back to finishing the original one. As a result change has been slow sometimes and not always easily visible.

The first week was essentially taken up with moving boxes and furniture in (including waiting an extra two days for tooticky's piano, because it was too wet to unload from the truck safely on the day that everything else arrived from the North); moving boxes and furniture out of the way of the plasterers/painters while they repaired the damage from the break-in and some of the more egregious holes in the walls created by the previous tenants; cleaning up the mess left by both said tenants and the alleged cleaners that the real estate agency engaged to come in and clean up; and urgent repairs.

Within the first 48 hours I had repaired the leaking toilet (leaks from the seal around the flush pipe from the cistern to the pan, and the leak inside the cistern itself, although I still think there may be one around the base of the pan that I can't find), unplugged the bathroom sink and shower/bath drains *shudder*, pulled up some of the greasy, oil-soaked carpet squares that had been nailed to the kitchen floor, removed the genuine 1980s dishwasher that came complete with genuine 1980s water and fungus, made the electric stove work and pulled the non-functional hot-plate element out, begun to solve some our curtaining problems, and gone most of the way to making the back door lockable. The tenants had taken all their curtains and 95% of the curtain rods with them, and the majority of the light globes as well. I think we made three or four trips to the local Bunnings (huge hardware store) within the first two days.

As we've begun to instill order I've lost track of the number of nails and screws I have pulled out of walls, doors, window frames, the floor, and every other surface that I can think of. And that's only about 50% of the fucking things - there's many I just haven't got to yet. As I noted in FB recently, I think I need to invent time travel myself, just so that I can go back and pry the hammers, screwdrivers, drills, nails, and screws out the the previous denizens' hot little hands, before they can start causing so much damage. It's been a marathon of prizing, filling, and sanding to try and deal with all the holes left behind in plaster and wood. At least I've been able to recycle a few of the less mangled nails and screws along the way.

I've made plenty of mistakes myself, and really have issues with some of the praise I've been getting from people like Tooticky and her mum or Godmum. I am not a master craftsman of any bloody sort, and it's frigging obvious that that's the case. I am only better than the retards that were here last, and the ones before that. It's really frustrating when you want to get some something done right (or at least cheaply and smoothly) and it never quite works out that way. Over-praise just makes that frustration worse. At least I can console myself with the thoughts that 1) I'll get better as I go, and 2) even the pros have some pretty off days.

As we've lived here, and gotten to know a few of the people on the street and squeezed further details out of the agent, some of the back story has begun to emerge. When we sorted through all the mail left behind we discovered that the previous tenants owed a really impressive amount to the state in things like parking and traffic fines. I'm surprised that Tooticky and I haven't had the bailiffs or sheriffs around yet (as kitling, catsidhe, I, and the rest of Hotel Gore St. did on at least one occasion). It's still unclear but we suspect that the tenants did something of a midnight flit, probably as a result of said fines, as the property manager wasn't aware that they had vacated until the agent selling the place went around to pull down the 'sold' sign and discovered the silent house. If we'd known, Tooticky and I could have moved down a week or three earlier, and probably prevented the break-in and damage that occurred while the house was sitting empty. When the property manager came around after the visit from the selling agent to inspect the place she discovered that not only had the tenants left us useful presents like the 12' trampoline and collection of traffic control devices in the backyard, but they'd also just turned their guinea pigs and blue-tongued lizards loose as well, which were lolloping and crawling around the yard as well...

Meeting the neighbour on one side proved to also be instructive. When we introduced ourselves (and explained that no, we hadn't come to talk to her about Jesus), she asked if we were renting, or had brought the place. the look of suspicion turned to one of... relief... acknowledgment that we might be real people...something like that maybe... on her face as we told her that we were the crazy ones who had brought spoke volumes. I am so sick of encountering that idea that renters are all unemployed scum who can't be trusted not to steal the wheels of their neighbour's rubbish bins in order flog them for drug money. It's sad, and tiring, and made me very mad before I became a land-owning capitalist-pig-dog, but there are moments when I can understand how that bias comes about. Some of my encounters with the ambulance service, and dealing with the aftermath of the previous tennants here make it very easy to adopt. The guy who owns the junk shop (his words) down the street has also been informative. Apparently one of them wasn't even very good at stealing other people's clothes from the local laundromat. :(

However, we're here now. And while we haven't mown the grass or repaired the sagging side gates yet, I hope that once we have the place reroofed, such a visible change to the place may give our neighbours a little more confidence. Who knows? The absence of escapee guinea pigs may also help.

Each night we've tended to collapse with yet another collection of catalogues for kitchen designs or house & garden magazines to peruse, but life outside the Project has gone on during the days. I've been doing modestly well at uni: my maths is better than I feared and perfectly sufficient for calculating drip rates; I have some idea of how to insert catheters; and I'm off to a medical/respiratory ward next week on clinical placement. Unfortunately I've had bugger-all paid work since we moved, but luckily Tooticky's slaving away at the history mines has been keeping us afloat. She's been coming home full of interesting ideas and stories, including plans for the anniversary of the signal station on Mount Nelson and the horrible things 1960s cooks did to perfectly good scallops.

It's lunch time now, so I'll leave it all with a link to the growing Flickr album of house pictures.

Vale John Barry

Touching the North Wind
I'm sure the rest of the world will be waking up to the same news sooner or later, depending on axial rotation. It could also have taken a while to filter through to Australia as well.

John Barry has died at the age of 77.

He wasn't my favourite movie composer of all time, but he did write some beautiful scores, and occupies a significant place in the history of music for film. David Arnold has summed up his (Bond) predecessor's talents rather nicely with the comment "That was John's gift - not only his way with harmony but the fact that he could state within a five or 10-second phrase everything you need to know about a movie".

John Barry - Greatest Hits on YouTube

(cross posted to filmscore)

Missive from the Underworld

The Watcher
It's almost the end of January, which is an entirely more comfortable thing to say this year than last. The weather has been much milder, and while much of the country may not agree, I'm generally happier when it rains. Green is so much easier on the eye and mind than grey, brown and sun-blasted yellow. The destruction caused by flooding and fires are somewhat similar in scope, if different in timelines and precise details, but thinking back to January and February Dragons I have met in the past, I'll take the water over fire any day. (One of my work mates, who has had a house burnt out, says that she thinks fire is a cleaner form of destruction, needing less lingering over debris and the grief that goes along with it. I remain unconvinced, but never have suffered a personal loss to either yet.)

The saga of working for the health department has continued solidly over the past year. Every other week it's been a case of 'Sleep well N. We'll most likely fire you in the next pay period'. Anyone who thinks contract work is flexible and entertaining, and that permanent, full time work is boring and rigid can come and debate it with me any day. Since July I've been employed casually, after my last full time contract ran out with no hope of renewal, and as result of the time demands of the nursing degree. It's been okay, but the uncertainty over income and when I'll actually be at work have been tedious. Amusingly, my contract is now actually in the southern region of the state, but I've been continuing to fill in gaps in the roster here in the north while each new chapter of the Great Southern House Hunt unfolds.

For those not in the know, tooticky scored a rather impressive new job late last year in Hobbit Town. She's been down there, living as a dweller-under-the-stairs in a friend's spare bedroom, since early November, while I've continued to run the house, serve the cats, study, and work up here. We initially thought we'd just find a new place to rent, and be living together again by early December at the latest. Hah!

After getting knocked back for a number of rental properties (which is odd, because we're perfectly respectable on paper and come with good references), we got so frustrated we said "Fuck it! Let's finally buy a house!" and a new chapter began. We looked at a number, and the most interesting of the lot was probably the Oast House, which made our imaginations run wild but was probably too expensive in terms of money, time, and effort for us to manage at the moment. I think we both regret not being able to buy it, but I also think it was the pragmatic move. The other major contender was a two bedroom unit that was in a fantastic location, but was also a bit too pricey for what it was and just a bit too small for our needs. Still, I could have walked to the main campus of uni to play frisbee...

HouseCollapse )

DegreesCollapse )

Neil, Amanda, and PhillipCollapse )


*The link is just in case there's anyone reading this who has never actually heard of Neil Gaiman, which, while possible, would be impressive.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Valarauko
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What I Did on My Holidays, Part II

The Watcher
After worrying that were running late, and having been told we couldn't check into our hotel just now anyway, tooticky and I wandered into the convention in time for the very first sessions. Thursday afternoon was one of the few times we each went to the same things, haring off seperately most days to pursue our own interests. We wound up reconvening over dinner with friends instead, and giving each other potted summaries of the sessions we'd been too and what we'd thought about them well into each night.

Thursday 14:00 - 15:00
Queer representations in speculative fiction.
Andrew M. Butler, Cristina Lasaitis, Gail Carriger, Erika Lacey

How are non heterosexual relationships, and non-binary gender identities represented in speculative fiction? Where is it done best, and where is the genre lacking? A survey of representations – both good and bad – across all speculative fiction media: books, films, TV and comic books.


Sadly this was one of the most disappointing sessions either of us went to. I think it suffered from being first off the block, among other things.

There was a lot of the history of queer characters within spec. fiction, and the break out of the 60s and 70s with authors like LeGuin and Delaney (who, having just staggered through Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, struck me as more an agent of boring the audience to death than a champion of alternate sexualities or genders). The other usual suspects also rated a mention, and my favourite was that of Joe Haldeman's protagonist in The Forever War struggling to deal with socially and state-encouraged homosexuality. However there wasn't much talk about current representations or the state of play, barring the question of whether it was better for non-straight sexualities to be visible and supported or just taken as so normal as to fade into the background like every other characters' and effectively become invisible until relevant. (My vote's for the latter, but it did make think me of the endless debate about bi invisibility as well.)

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What I Did on My Holidays

The Watcher
You know, I don't write in this thing nearly as much as I should. Reading back, I'm reminded that I actually like a lot of my writing, rather than cringing away from it. It also occurs that I should write about more than just SF&F Conventions, but since I'm about to just that again, such thoughts can join the ranks of other New Year's Day idiocies commitments that live happily in the pile of one day... maybe...

However, my brain still feels as if it's fizzing lightly from our ten days in what I guess is the closest thing to a hometown I have. Friends! So many of them! The mental relaxation that cones from being able to sink into rich layers of shared history, let various layers open to the air and breathe again. Renew long running conversations and debates over religion, sex, and politics: things I'm told I shouldn't raise in polite society (leaving me wondering if I subconsciously think Tasmania is politer than Victoria). A not quite endless whirl of social engagements in cafes, restaurants, and bars. Birthday surprises, changes since the last time we were together, and seemingly universal constants. Random encounters with old friends and new ones as well.

Family! Both of them, since we're married and all. We spent most of the first full day sitting in court for the trial of the pathetically ignorant little fuck-knuckle who nearly killed my father in a car crash two years ago. Also caught up on Mum and Dad's trip to China a few weeks ago to teach Chinese teachers a bit more about how to teach English. There was time in the Hills with tooticky's family and their collection of Golden Retrievers (which led to my clothes being covered in dog hair rather than cat hair for a change). And our last foray into dining out was a belated birthday dinner for one of my brothers in law at a restaurant that that seems to have become a family tradition for them. Conversation there rolled from the joys of Peking Duck to medical imaging modalities, and from startlingly phallic-shaped banana fritters to AussieCon experiences.

And so to the Convention. It was big by Australian standards, and I'm sure still piddling in comparison to overseas ones. The news letter suggests a bit over 2000 people, which makes it the largest of the three SF&F cons I've been to, although sniggeringly dwarfed by the aircraft hangar that is Jeff's Shed. That place has doubled in volume since I last worked there, and while excellent in its number and size of available rooms it did leave a lot of panel sessions feeling like one of those parties where not enough people have arrived to provide critical mass. Although possibly that was just the sessions I chose to turn up to. A lot of the ones involving one or more Big Name Authors (BNAs) seemed to do very well crowd-wise, whereas I tended to turn up to sessions based on the topic rather than the presenters.

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World / AussieCon

The Watcher
I am looking forward to a long-overdue holiday over the next fortnight. It's been a long and busy 15 months since the last one.

After some thought, internet shenanigans, and the kindness of some people in the US who can't go, I am now joining tooticky at uber Nerdfest. For all my LJ fiends who will also be there, below the cut are the options I'm thinking about across the course of the con. My choices aren't set in stone, and there's a few time slots where picking one or another will be really hard. It's a shame that some of the panels aren't being repeated across a couple of different time slots, but I suppose it's a positive indication of the wealth of material the organisers have had to work with.

I'm also struggling to find time and space for food, and lounging in bars or cafes chatting with friends and aquaintances. Evenings seem less of a problem, but the middle of the day looks challenging. Social breakfasts may be the order of the days...

Usu's Tentative WorldCon ProgramCollapse )

So, Tooticky, australian_joe, tyellas, aidandoyle and others; what do you all think?

AussieCon 4 / World SF Convention

The Watcher
I may be about to buy two attending memberships for a slightly reduced rate in Australian terms. Given that the prices go up on the first of May, is anyone interested in coming?

AussieCon Homepage

Heimlich Manoeuvering

Bear Woman
I caught the afternoon repeat of the Health Report yesterday after dropping a patient back at a country hospital. The episode is well worth a listen if you want to hear a discussion of the clash between egos, marketing, science, politics, and common sense. The inventor does not come off well...

The Heimlich Manoeuvre

In the early 1970s a new procedure for treating choking victims burst on to the scene in the United States and soon it was famous around the world. The procedure was called the Heimlich manoeuvre, named after the man who created it—Dr Henry Heimlich. It has never been used in Australia. Despite the claims of the extremely charismatic Dr Heimlich, Australian resuscitation experts believe that there isn't enough scientific evidence to support its use. So how does a medical procedure become so widely adopted without any serious scientific evidence? Australian doctors are not alone in their criticism of Dr Heimlich's methods. The most surprising and vocal critic of all turns out to be Dr Heimlich's very own son, Peter Heimlich.

This program was first broadcast on 27th July, 2009.


(cross posted to medical_geeks and onlineambulance)

Intersections in Real Space

The Watcher
So I've been to another nerdfest sci-fi convention: the national one this time. I had mixed feelings prior to going, but thought that both tooticky and I badly needed a break, and I was curious to meet whichever of Tooticky's fellow Clarionites may assemble there. (After all, I'd been hearing about them a great deal ever since she got back from Queensland. ;) ) I still have mixed feelings post-con, but they're all expected and to do with the session content and organisation, rather than the company which was generally delightful.

The sessions I went to were very similar in feel to those of Continuum in 2007. The same biting my tongue and struggling not to froth at the mouth occurred more than once: I still feel a certain level of outrage when remembering Steampunk session getting bogged down in arguing whether the subgenre is defined by the machinery or the corsetry, while largely bleeping over the punk element.* It occurs to me that When My Glorious Revolution ComesTM SF con panel sessions will all have definitions agreed before kick-off, and moderators to focus speakers and questioners on actual themes related to the con. And overall theme and connectedness was one thing that did seem... muddy. I suspect that Conjecture was meant to have a broad environmental focus, given the number of sessions with ecology and environment issues in them, and Julie Czerneda's career prior to becoming an author, but there wasn't a clear statement about such intent. Another thing to consider WMGRC is such a statement both in the pre-reading/program and the opening session.

One of the best sessions I attended did have an environmental theme: Climate, Energy, and Geo-engineering was everything I was after. Professor Barry Brook was prepared, actually used multimedia presentations (something generally and oddly lacking amongst such a group of technophiles), knew his stuff, and spoke to the point. His comments on geo-engineering weren't anything new to anyone who'd heard to Background Briefing's article earlier this year, but his arguments for 3rd and 4th generation fast breeder nuclear reactors were enlightening and persuasive. (And if you want the best layed-out argument against nuclear power for Australia generally that I've read, check out Quarterly Essay 33: Reaction Time by Professor Ian Lowe.)

And it's perhaps the academic stuff that I'm looking for at such conventions. I can do the fannish 'squeeing' with friends on my own time and not pay significant chunks of money for it. I can't get high level presentations on near- or far-future engineering or sociology; or thoughtful literary critiques of works or genres that easily. I want to be wowed. And wooed by clever, experienced and articulate people with big, sexy thoughts. I'm told that this kind of thing happens more at the big conventions; the ones usually overseas, like Wiscon. The ones with academic and writerly foci, as opposed to ones with more otaku-like influences. Fortunately one of the biggest SF cons is coming to Melbourne next year - Worldcon. It seems pretty damn likely that Tooticky and I will go, and I look in the direction of others such as aidandoyle, alecto23, australian_joe, catsidhe, readerofasaph, and sjkasabi for company. There will almost certainly be more wailing and gnashing of teeth at sessions, but I have big hopes for guests such as Kim Stanley Robinson.

However, there were aspects of Conjecture that worked very well. The kid's session track, for example, struck me as an excellent idea and my hat goes off to the brave souls that ran it all the long weekend. The reworking of the program on the fly also went pretty well, I think. I gather from some overheard conversations that there was some doubt as to whether the whole convention would actually go ahead, and if that's the case it certainly must have made planning and organising tenuous (although I'm left wondering why the con may have been in jeopardy in the first place).

Oh, and Sean Williams's reading of a yet-to-be-finished thriller that nods to the multitude of conspiracy nuts obsessed with HAARP and mentions that blood on boots feels sticky when you walk was wonderful. I also learned of another phenomenon during his reading: apparently almost directly on the other side of the globe from HAARP is an antenna-like structure on the sea bed. Now that's just conspiracy gold!

Other memories that resurface as I type include: a brief discussion revolving around the idea that as aliens were once the new angels, angels are now the new aliens, during the session on Urban Fantasy and Magical Realism; and Julie Czerneda getting all terrestrial during a session on xenobiology, and mentioning that there have been bacteria discovered living in the Earth's crust that depend on radioactive decay as their energy source. (Sadly, not at an intracellular level, but it does lead me to speculate on radio waves also being viable as a source of energy for living organisms.)

The social aspect of Conjecture was definitely the highpoint though, as Tooticky has already mentioned. In some ways the slightly wonky structure worked in our favour, providing excuses for long lunches and occupations of the venue's bar. The other 2009 Clarionites were fascinating, and disturbingly well read (obviously I haven't been reading anywhere near enough F or SF for fun recently). My armchair sociologist watched and listened and thought... and came to many of the same conclusions as he did after Continuum two years ago. I've got recommendations for books and TV to follow up, and given a few in return (including Moomins). I'm also left with a better understanding of both the speculative fiction industry and fandom in Australia too than after Continuum. I have no idea what use that burgeoning understanding is yet, but inspiration may strike at some stage.

Other than the Clarionites I also chatted briefly with unquestionably real people from Queensland, and met one real live fictional character. The Queenslanders were sweet, smart, and did much to redress my lingering southern prejudices concerning Australia's north. ;) The real live fictional character was, in fact, Dirk Flinthart, who I had been told was in Tassie somewhere but then so, allegedly, is the thylacine. He did much to redress my prejudices concerning pirates. :)

Oh, and like Tooticky I have now sampled at least two articles of whacky South Australian cuisine: frog cakes and coconut spuds. Frog cakes can probably induce apoptosis in pancreatic cells at five paces, and coconut spuds are odd but moreish. What I didn't manage to find was a pie floater so there will have to be a return expedition at some stage...




* Although for all the focus on the trappings, there was acknowledgment that Steampunk often contains a certain DIY approach to the machinery, and that the slogan "Love the machine, hate the factory" was somehow important. There was also a fleeting moment or two spent on the 'compare and contrast' between Steampunk and Cyberpunk, with one of the conclusions being that Steampunk is a move backward to reduce technology to a more human and less all-pervasive scale than is present in Cyberpunk.

That last little bit is interesting, and makes me think that GW Dahlquist's The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters is actually more c-punk in theme than s-punk; with the glass books being a potentially very pervasive piece of technology on par with the SQUID recordings in Strange Days among others. Or perhaps the Glass Books and its first sequel The Dark Volume might be considered anti-punk generally. On one hand there's a mysterious cabal trying to subvert The System, but on the other on the other our trio of heroes (both insiders and outsiders) is attempting to protect that pseudo-Victorian status quo. The said technology is Evil and not exactly embraced or utilised by the protagonists either. However, the noir element of an ending with no climactic change to society at large (if not the protagonists) does seem probable though, so Dahlquist's story may have that in common with certain tropes in Cyberpunk at least...

Search and Rescue Virginity

Bear Woman
Long day yesterday. I'd originally signed up for twelve hours of being on call at my vollie branch. There's noting quite like getting up at 05:45 on your first day off to go and and bum around an ambulance station hoping simultaneously to have a quiet day and that something interesting will happen.

All was leaning toward the quiet end of the wish, and 'my' paramedic and I were well into the afternoon, tinkering with gear and beginning to wash the truck when a call came in from the comms centre down in Hobart. Nothing new there, but C's tone of voice made me pay attention. He asked me how I felt about a little bushwalk...

Two hours later(about 17:30) C, another vollie, and me were scrambling across a boulder field near Split Rock Falls as the rescue chopper circled overhead, pelting us with intermittent downdraft, looking for our customer, and swearing about craptastic radios and a lack of mobile phone coverage. To our credit, we found her before the chopper crew did, but then they did beat us to the general location after flying 200 kilometres north from Hobart. We only had to walk a couple of K, but it was all uphill, and we were carrying a modest amount of gear. (For future reference: I should empty out at least half of the IV fluids from the trauma kit before schlepping it up hills and sideways through watercourses. Oh, and wilderness training can go and get stuffed - that's what the SES is for.)

Our customer was a woman in her mid 40's; a well-equipped and experienced bushwalker (all of whom are mad by definition), who had either dislocated, snapped (or possibly both), her lower leg just up from the ankle. On the same !&*($%%!@#$!?*!?! boulder field we staggering across. It wasn't a big surprise really, and I'm grateful none of the rest of us managed to provide an encore. Her husband was incredibly lucky and managed to get a tenuous and occasional mobile signal about 50 metres from where she was to call for help. According to him that involved a somewhat confusing conversation between to comms centre, and a guy on a mobile phone in a car somewhere (who later turned out to be the SAR coordinator on for the day), with an awful lot of drop outs and return calls.

Two hours after that initial call for help, and a lot of huffing and puffing on my part, we were on scene and splinting and morphing up our patient. The rescue paramedic had been winched into a clearing about 30 metres from where we were, and had marginally more success talking to the chopper as C had had with our portable radio. It's comforting to know that rescue people have communications with their own vehicles that are just as good as ours... The fun began when we learned that after all the circling and hovering, Yankee 9 (the chopper) was running low and fuel and was just going to duck off to Launceston to top up (only about 70 odd k in a straight line). Even more fun was the announcement request from the pilot that we move our patient some 200 metres down the hill to a clearing that none of had scene because he was dubious about the safety of winching from where we were. Apparently when P dropped in, he had been right at the limit of the cable length. The chopper was expected back in approximately 50 minutes.

Thirty minutes later we we all bruised, scraped, and close to exhausted. We had moved A, our patient about 30 metres to a clearing that was in the same general direction as the one the chopper had been talking about. As I type this and do the maths, a metre a minute seems ridiculously good, considering the terrain we were dealing with. Small rocks. big rocks. Logs. Rocks that moved and rolled under foot or knee. Rocks covered in wet moss and lichen. Gaps between rocks. At one stage I managed to disappear halfway down a hole between a couple of larger boulders, and only extricated my own leg with the expenditure of more adrenalin and some filthy language. Luckily we didn't drop A too much, and the combo or morphine and midazolam was helping to her to take to whole experience rather well.

Two hours later (somewhere around 20:00 I think), and the chopper finally came back into view. Another shouted conversation over variably working radios and a decision. No, were not moving the patient further without a litter, and that clearing we had gotten too was probably as good as it was going to get. Besides we were all running out of light. Fifteen minutes after that (the photo file on my mobile does specify 20:15) and P the paramedic and A the patient were being winched up to the chopper. Before leaving P had managed to get hold of someone and ask them to send a search party in to meet us as we walked back out where out ambulance was parked, knowing that we were going to be doing at least half of it in the dark, and without much in the way of torches.

Ten minutes after lift off and we ( the three rescuers, A's husband, and their son-in-law) were all on the the way back along the Split Rock Track. Going down hill is marginally easier than going up, and we made slightly better time, but I slipped over more often. We ran out of daylight about two thirds of the way back, and starlight doesn't reach into deep valleys and trough dense canopies very well. Three quarters of the way back we met the inspector of the local police station who had some torches with him. At 21:45 or so we all dumped our packs and fell into the ambulance. When you're that tired, climbing up the step to get in seems really unfair.

Sometime around 23:30 last night I finally made back into Launnie. I staggered into McDonalds (the only place open at that time of night) covered in dirt, looking somewhat like a Yowie I imagine, and finally got dinner. I came home to two very grumpy and ill-used cats, ate, and collapsed.

I finally woke up again at about 09:30 today. It's always the day after strenuous exercise that it begins to hurt... why is that so? Now my left leg feels like it used to after heavy combat without greaves and an opponent that kept dropping his weapon below the knee line, and everything else simply aches. But, I'm off to celebrate Burn's Night with some new friends, traditional Scottish food, and (one would assume) some of Robbie's better poetry... and the world doesn't feel too bad.

Still, give me a nice quiet city branch with stabbings and polypharmic ODs any day.

Sunday Morning Musings

Touching the North Wind
A while back australian_joe linked to a very... special Youtube clip of Miss Piggy lip syncing to a Peaches song. While, after doing some research, I can say I'm not much of a fan of Peaches work, it did ultimately lead tooticky and I discovering this! She should have posted the link ages ago, but I've gotten tired of waiting, so...

Touga's Bringing Sexy Back


It's even more hilarious if you've actually seen the anime the images are drawn from. I'm really not a fan of the Filleted Revolutionary myself, but I stuck out most of the series because I was interested in where then story was going. And I really should get around to seeing those final three or four episodes someday... when I think I'm up to the angst.

Utenna is not unusual in that respect for me. I sat through the entire series of Buffy for the same reason: either didn't really care about, or actively disliked, most of the characters but wanted to know what happened regardless. Reading over Tooticky's shoulder last night, I noted that sartorias and burger_eater have been running gargantuan threads about related issues when it comes to characters versus stories. However, one of my bigger gripes about stories such as Buffy is the absence of God in universes where writers feel the need to invoke demons and/or the Devil. I've just finished Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy again, and while Pullman's take on God, heaven, and the church may be more than a little heretical, at least he's got the guts to try it. I am getting seriously over the absence of God when it comes to places/concepts such as Sunnydale, Mulder & Scully & Frank Black's world, or even Neil Gaiman's universe in Sandman (*shock* *gasp* heresy of my own). Authors will allow for demons and angels galore*. The more interesting will even have a crack at Satan/Lucifer. But precious few seem willing to take on the Big Guy, or even allow for His existence. It bothers me. Quite a lot.

I suppose it could be seen as a form of respect, or political saviness at the least, but I feel that if you're going to mess around with evil, then you ought to be willing to take on the work or portraying the good as well. It strikes me as weak cosmology and metaphysics to suggest anything less. I can live with any number of explanations as to why there are things that humans refer to as demons and angels but are really just 'natural' creatures that we got confused about. That's fine, if a tad trite these days, but if your going to play with big concepts like Heaven and Hell and take on those trappings of deist religions (generally Christianity in a non-specific, wishy washy kind of way), then for fuck's sake follow the obligation that implies and take them to their logical conclusions. I'm absolutely over the Slayer and Glinda, the good Wiccan of the West. What Sunnydale or the Pacific Northwest (and I'm looking well and truly in your direction here Chris Carter) needed was more bloody paladins and priests of conviction and power.

None of which is to say that I'm necessarily a fan of Christian fantasy or science fiction. I appreciate the intent, but like almost all overtly Christian modern music, it tends to be terrible. Trying far too hard on one hand, with almost zip to make it digestible on the other.

And why is it that we think in dualities anyway? What happened to us so long ago that we naturally tend to think of things in pairs? Good/evil. God/Satan. Female/male. Was there some kind of fission at the beginning of the universe, and are we still seeing the effects of that? Things still trying to unite and become one after a sundering? Did Jim Henson get it right with the Urskeks at the end of The Dark Crystal? Now, there lies the seeds of a story with real grunt.


* Although shorn of the their roles or the authority devolved to them from their bosses in most cases, and so ultimately impotent or pointless except as 'magical creatures'.</lj></lj></lj></lj>

Very French

The Watcher
Since tooticky has been busy skiting about my cooking skills, I feel I should do the same. I've just finished off the last of the seafood chowder (which was an excellent first attempt), and now I'm listening to a combination of her cooking laksa and this morning's Health Report. Mmmm... laksa and virology. Does it get any better?

In other news, I explained to a recently arrived African immigrant how to put up an umbrella today. I was stomping up the hill to the ambulance station in the rain, and she was wandering down, carrying a closed umbrella and holding a handkerchief over her head in a very ineffectual effort to stay dry. She reminded me more than a little of Totoro. She asked for help, and so I explained the mysteries of both raising and lowering the thing. :) Mind you, given the weather here lately I should perhaps also have explained what to do when the bloody things invert in strong wind gusts.

And in even more news, my partner and I took a little old lady back to her nursing home to die today. We've done a lot of those kinds of trips over the past few weeks, but not so many where the nurse handing over has been wondering whether our customer will actually reach her destination alive and has a copy of the Not For Resus order ready along with all the other paperwork. Watching this little old lady's respiratory rate and effort drop as the morphine they gave her prior to transport kick in was... interesting. On one hand a serious worry; and on the other knowing that she was warm and dozy, and not struggling so hard for every breath was remarkably peaceful. A complicated 15 minutes in the back of the truck. Apropos of today, and some superb writing by degeneratelyre, I highly recommend Death Cab for Cutie's What Sarah Said.
The Watcher
Amazing how profound moronic statements can be. With the one I'm borrowing from, I suspect that poor old Ronnie was telegraphing his later diagnosis, but it does just fine in tooticky's and my context.

Outside, the mornings are getting warmer (no longer waking up and turning on the news to hear that it's -2o every morning), the black ice on the roads is less of a hazard, cherry and apricot trees are in full bloom, and the earth smells warm and wet. Today is especially fine. It's rained fairly consistently for the past 36 hours and so everything is fresh and green, I have good coffee, and the denizens of Streaming Soundtracks have been making some excellent choices for the playlist.

In a few hours, I'm off to play on a real ambulance again as a Vollie, and patient transport has been keeping me busy and paying the rent in between times. It's a great way of travelling the island, embedding myself in Launceston, and meeting people. In the past week I've taken patients to Burnie and seen the sun sparkle on the Strait, to Deloraine and smelt the cold air off the mountains, to Hobart and seen the snow still clinging stubbornly to the top of Wellington, worried over the still parched midlands as we passed through a number of times, and brought an old shearer home to die in one of the better pockets of Ravenswood. It can be a physically and mentally tiring job... although still pretty relaxing when compared to the dubious pleasures of 12 hour shifts at the Most Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy. (I'm not missing shift work... although it will be back to that if I do miraculously manage to get a grad position with the ambulance service down here this year.)

It's been a long six months, but I'm beginning to feel like I have a life here rather than floundering around while Tooticky gets on with it. Being a house-husband wasn't all bad, but it felt both like I wasn't pulling my weight and pretty isolating. (If only I'd had a tower and the actual discipline to go and memorise the names of a few thousand things.) I'm still feeling a little odd about the whole society thing and my place in it all, but the local geography helps a lot. We had people over for dinner and anime for the first time ever last night. Tooticky put in the vast bulk of the work there, but company and the idea of friends and social circles here was great, even if I began to fall asleep half way through the very daft Secret of Mamo. It's a possible anodyne to a lack of anime nights with Tooticky, alecto23, He-who-is-without-LJ, australian_joe and others. We messed with our guests heads by showing them Paprika.... which is rapidly working its way up into my top five anime

In other news (because I have been so very slack with LJ), Tooticky and I both lost grandparents within a fortnight of each other in May, my Dad is currently in hospital after a quite spectacular car crash two weeks ago, the cats are fine, we have been to one wedding in Melbourne and have another two to go before Christmas, The Dark Knight was superb, I had a bad morning with the wheelchair bus at work (piccies at some stage), and the world has not (as yet) ended in either strange matter or been ripped apart by a black hole (and if you've never heard of MC Hawking before it's about time you did).

"It's You." "It's Us... Who are we?"

The Watcher
Sigur Ros's Hoppipolla has a rippling piano riff that leaves me smiling without effort. Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on a Theme by Tallis is perfectly described by one reviewer as "a cathedral made of music", and a superb choice for the Master and Commander soundtrack, with invocations of big, open seas. And the Screaming Jets cover of The Eve of Destruction may be the ultimate rock song. Waking up and checking e-mail and LJ after a long, but surprisingly easy, night at Clown doesn't really get much more sublime that that...

I am still alive. I am still reading, albeit infrequently after the IT genii at The Most Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy blocked LJ access. And sometimes I even comment. While I have tales to tell, most of them probably won't get relayed here. The upside is that for the people I see IRL, all the tales will be new. The downside is that for people I don't see IRL ('cause you all live in strange places) may be waiting a few years to hear them, if ever.

Briefly, it' been an... indescribable... couple of months. I've been sick. A lot. I even impressed my GP so much I got sent off for a 12 lead ECG, cardiac enzymes, liver function test, random other blood tests and a chest x-ray. That kept me amused for a week or three, and I now have my own copy of what appears to be friggin' textbook 12 lead, if I do say so myself. I am mostly better now, but I suspect the physical illnesses have largely been a reflection of internal disquiet anyway, so we'll see what happens next.

I have worked stupid hours between Hell on Earth and the army. I have done some okay work, and pranged my first ever field cannulation. I have failed to get into MAS again, and will eat my hat if Clown gives me mugung's now-vacated supervisor's job. I have failed a semester of uni as a result of illness, but been given a leave of absence for this one after my academic progress committee took the first look at me in that meeting. I have lost weight through being ill, eating army food, and doing nothing. I have barely been at the gym, so my arm's are now almost as feeble and twig-like as zombiemonkey's.

tooticky and I have barely seen each other the past few months due to generally incompatible lifestyles and schedules. So to remedy this we are taking a very large chunk of November and December off, and going on holiday. First sailing around Porth Phillip Bay for a week to get our Competent Crew certificates, and then around the Whitsundays with vonstrassburg and company. It's very much a case of "Screw you all, we're going sailing." And we'll work out what to do with the fortnight after that. Possibly just sleep in and have leisurely breakfasts together, or possibly south to the Bass Strait islands and Tassie again in the ongoing quest to get Tooticky's grand exhibition up and running. Who knows? There may be even be more boats there...

I have been finding myself contemplating long range changes such switching degrees back to nursing again (because at least I know I can get a job there) or idly toying with trying for psychology. Over the past few years at Clown I've found myself drawn again and again to mental health care, both wih my own patients and while watching daft things like ER. I don't seem to be able to help it. I find myself liking the psychologist characters no matter what, and getting caught up with the crazy patients far more so than the poor bastard with a dissecting aneurysm or porphyria. It's a real thing. The hitch is that I know I have nowhere near the academic stamina or smarts required to to be a clinical psychologist these days. I get tired just thinking about that one... and laugh even harder when people keep suggesting medicine.

And as a quick, collective summary for today's reading, livredor I love the collection of things you've posted; mustela I could really do with a disjointed letter from the other side of the world sometime in the future (I'll add my address to the list); erudito, the books sound interesting; congratulations to you patchworkkid and tabouli for completely seperate things; enrobso you can finish the class war, but I'm starting the inter-generational one; akgnome, I'm still very, very envious and I hope it all goes well; and pi_feathersword sent me a link to the funniest and most interesting story of the Burning Man festival I've ever read, and I'm eager to hear his account of it.

Two Things

Valarauko
Work has cut off LJ access. On protesting that I actually use mine for professional stuff, as well as for play, the cryptic reply was "some people have had their access to the site removed". I assume by extension I must be one of the people. I don't think I've given away any trade secrets or said anything especially nasty in the last year or three but it's enough to make me slightly paranoid. I'm reluctant to make the journal friends only though, as that kind of negates one of the reasons I created the thing in the first place. While negotiations are continuing it does seriously impinge on my time available to read/write...

And secondly, has anyone seen our erstwhile housemate umlimo? He appears to have disappeared off the face of the planet. I assume he's with nihilistvlad in honeymoon mode, but I have no way of getting in touch with her outside of LJ, and Umlimo's mobile is either off, dead, or he's not answering. Domestic matters are coming to a serious head and we need to talk. And have needed to do so all week. If anyone sees either of them can they please twist Umlimo's arm until he calls either Tooticky or myself?

I'm still Standing...

The Watcher
Although only God knows how after the last few weeks of very unhappy intersections between multiple jobs, school, and St. Jambulance. I've done a couple of 24 hour or more stints awake, have one more to go, have finished a sociology essay and a pharm exam, have been given official St. Jambulance approval to use selected S4 drugs we covered in 1st year bloody uni, and gone to work for the army. I'm thinking that my best birthday option is simply sleep.

I have sat and stared at blank LJ screens a lot since Christmas... so many things I mean to write, but apathy (as far as writing goes) is a powerful foe, as is exhaustion. Lots of things to say and stories to tell when I finally do manage to deal with each though. Calls to arms in the inter-generational conflict that I have had an absolute gutful of, stories of fun with neurotransmitters, good news in the renewable energy industry, and what it is I think about the concept of fatherhood.

In the mean time, I find myself rather enchanted by the Daemon meme/advertising thingy doing the rounds in preparation for The Golden Compass. I didn't tinker with it at all to get the starting form.

My DaemonCollapse )

Learning to Fly

Bear Woman
I've been privileged to work with a wide variety and large number (*counts on fingers*...20 to date, not counting contractors, and the one who failed to appear for his first shift) of First Aid Officers during my time here at Hell on Earth With Fluorescent Lighting. Each has brought their own unique background and perspective to the job: the fiery and diminutive French-Canadian nurse who told tales of having to get park rangers to shoo bears off her clinic doorstep in the mornings; the ex-manager whom I had to pour into a taxi on more than one occasion after "...not more than five!" post-work beverages; the amazingly jaded and cynical D, the 'Son of Chicken Man', who remains surprisingly sweet underneath; and the ex-navy diver and diving medic. Each of us has also gravitated toward our own special classes of patients over the years, seemingly by random luck. I, for example, am generally known for getting called to more than my fair share of patients whose mental equilibrium is a question for some debate. I'm not sure that this is actually the case, but there are months when it certainly feels like it might be...

This morning, however, I was thinking of our ex-navy diver. When I was first treading the corridors and secret passageways of this labyrinthine and Stygian institution, he seemed to specialise in people attempting to fly, generally without notable success. L seemed to be on duty for nearly every unfortunate who fell over the edge of balconies and escalators, or tumbled down stairs, whether accidentally, or with marginal deliberation. It earned him the sobriquet of 'Lemming Doctor' from a geeky and grizzled Div. 2 nurse (another cow-orker) and myself, who used to listen to his tales of mayhem and manglement with minor awe. Our entertainment complex averages two or three of these customers a year, with a resulting mortality rate of approximately one in three. When L finally left for greener pastures (or at least better paying ones in colder waters) three and something years ago his special patients began to be more evenly distributed amongst the remaining staff. Today was finally my turn.

Before I'd even managed the first sip of my coffee this morning I was summoned to the fray by Security Communications. They radioed me with news of a patient who had fallen down an escalator and was likely to benefit from my presence. Having attended one or two of these types of jobs over the years I was not initially worried or surprised. Most people that tumble down these moving stair cases do so from a standing position on the same device, and rarely fall more than a metre or two vertically, resulting in comparatively minor injuries (up to and including my somewhat less than sub-optimally intelligent patient of a few years back who took a motorised wheelchair down one, with less than complete success). Some radio chatter ensued as I walked from my office to the scene, and it was decided that an ambulance should be requested post-haste based on the mechanism of injury, which only marginally increased my levels of surprise or worry. On arrival I discovered that events had not taken their usual course and that my customer, lying conscious but somewhat broken, had fallen over the edge of an escalator hand-rail some two stories, or ten metres up, before landing on the surface we presently found him on.

Read more...Collapse )

Fire Dance II

The Watcher
Got Back from Mansfield just on midday last Sunday. After reversing all the vehicle gymnastics that I was forced to go through in order to get the right truck to the right place at the right time, and a brief lunch with tooticky, I finally got an hour or two of sleep before night shift at The World of Irritation (which lived up to its epithet by sending me a cantankerous, non-English speaking patient with a really decent asthma attack at 06:30 in the fucking morning, who naturally refused to go to hospital).

Thanks to the vagaries of St. Jambulance I was forced into a space/time-folding operation of Macross-like proportions to swap our car for my Division's station wagon, and that for another Division's bus, travelling across a sizable chunk of eastern Melbourne, and laying contingency plans for stocking the vehicle with extra saline, and working out how and when to meet the unknown other member from Werribee who was to be the other half of the crew. All while at my parent's place, pretending to have dinner with them and Tooticky, and with about 14 hours notice. Oh, and making sure that my Saturday night shift at Clown would be covered too, which mugung was very supportive over.

The point of all that explanation whinging above is that it eventually unfolded like any other emergency or military operation in my experience. A mad scramble to get all the pieces on the board, and then a lot of waiting around. Very similar to the last time I was involved with fires; a few years back in the Grampians (in NW Victoria). While it's fascinating and adrenaline-stimulating to be involved in such a big and scary thing, doing first-aid for fires is actually pretty low key. All the real heroics are done by the fire-fighters (the CFA and DSE vollies and paid crews respectively). I don't know how they do it, personally, and I remain impressed. This time we were located even further away from the fire-lines, at the DSE depot in Mansfield, to provide care and advice for the crews coming in and going out at shift-change times. The DSE OH&S/medical co-ordinators had largely set up a process that encouraged self-treatment by individual crew-members anyway. A lot of what we did there was tweak that process slightly, and provide a lot of advice and information. I think between the pair of us we only treated about 15 patients between 14:00 on Friday and 09:00 on Sunday. Some of the other posts were doing 50 or more every (nominal) 16 hour shift, but they were a lot closer to the fires than we were.

Accommodation was in a very nice motel in Mansfield for the first night, about 5 minutes drive from the DSE depot, which was a good thing as we were on call all night. M actually did get called back for a guy with large amounts of ash in his eyes, who ultimately wound up going to hospital for further assessment/treatment. Only hotel room I've ever been in with a spa in the bathroom, and a TV too, so that if you weren't bloody tired, and Mansfield wasn't facing something of a water crisis, you could lie in the spa and watch TV. Unfortunately some poor fool had booked out most of that motel, and a fair chunk of the others in Mansfield, for a wedding the next night. Deeply, deeply inconvenient for all concerned. I imagine the wedding party where having similar thoughts to Tooticky and myself at our wedding regarding weather and climate, and I know that all of us (the 50 odd NSW Rural Fire Service vollies, and M and I) that got shifted to a horse-riding lodge in the middle of nowhere just outside of Bonnie Doon weren't exactly thrilled either. Thankfully we didn't get called back the second night, as it would have been a 45 minute drive just to get to the depot. St. Jambulance HQ had actually authorised us to respond Code 2 (flashing lights - we don't have sirens on the vehicles any more, due to various idiocies and politics, and therefore don't have a Code 1) if we were required, but that wouldn't have helped speed up the process much.

Sunday morning was largely a question of sorting out all the stuff for the day and waiting around for the next St. Jambulance crew to arrive so that we could hand-over. They arrived, we had a chat and were off again, driving back down the smoky Maroondah Highway.

Everyone wants to know what it's like. The only description of my experience that really springs to mind is the obvious: hot and smokey. alecto23 has linked to some pretty evocative images, and jilba (hijacked from tyellas) has written about what it feels like to be there. The animals are an interesting point. Some appear restless and agitated, wandering about in the smoke, and other small herds of cattle that we passed were clustered quietly together in the gloom, looking pretty relaxed about it all under their trees. There was a fair amount of road-kill on the highway, but as I don't drive up there often, I have no idea if it was more than average or not.

Like fog, the smoke changes; responding to breezes, night-time inversion layers, and the fire activity. When it's dense your eyes and throat sting, and the smell is powerful... although like all odours it recedes into the background as your nose becomes habituated to it. Where we were was relatively quiet, with not a lot of noise from wind, and none of the roar from the fire front. Just the noise of trucks, hundreds of tired people, and radio chatter instead. The few pictures I took can be found here:

Smoke Haze on the Maroondah Highway (at about 09:30 on Sunday)

Sun Through Smoke Haze (at about 16:00 on Friday)

Sun Through Smoke Haze II (taken about 18:00 on Friday)

M and Stonnington's bus at the DSE depot

I expect to back there, or somewhere else like it over the next week or two...

Fire Dance

The Watcher
Off to Mansfield until late Saturday night / early Sunday morning with St. Jambulance. Kind of fitting since I was in the area when I saw the lighting strikes that started the whole fucking thing.

Everything else (LJ posts on the Bike Ride & Tooticky's proper birthday) will have to wait unfortunately... :(
The Watcher
Because I'm going to be absent and busy on Saturday, I've decided to try postal voting (rather than the pre-poll voting that I've used in the past when I've been working on election days). So this morning I've been doing the usual thing and hitting up all the available web sites to have a look at party and individual independent policies.

In some ways I'm a politician's worst nightmare: the swinging voter who actually reads policy and platform statements and then votes both on what they think of the policy and whether they actually believe the politician will succeed in enacting them or not. I can't be counted on to vote consistently, or even allow my preferences to be distributed along the party-preferred lines. (And for people like australian_joe, yes I know this sometimes means my votes are 'wasted'. But in terms of wasting votes, what I really want to see on each ballot paper is a "None of the above - send 'em back and get me some better options." box.) I've even been known to vote for... independents! *shock*

If anyone's interested (especially anyone voting in the district Northcote or the Northen Metro region here's a couple of links that may prove useful:

The Victorian Democrats Branch
The Family First Victorian Branch
The Victorian Branch of the Australian Greens
People Power (two candidates for the Legislative Council, and a bit more on them here)
The Democratic Labour Party (everyone's favourite Christian socialists)

The only independent specifically for Northcote is Darren Lewin-Hill (going for a seat in the Legislative Assembly) who seems to be an education geek, and seems a little light on web-presence. This is pretty much the only opinion/policy comment I've found for him.

There's a couple of independents running in other areas across Melbourne that can be voted for in the Legislative Council, but I either haven't found a great deal on them, or run out of enthusiasm for the search.

You can all look up the Libs and Labour for yourselves.

And so far, my favourite site discovered in all of this has been The Poll Bludger. :)

I've been paying particular attention to two of my favourite areas: the environment and water, with the policies that articulate into each such as energy, transport and infrastructure, housing, planning, primary and secondary industry etc. Notably, everyone raves on about rain-water tanks and 'third-piping' (grey-water reclamation) and rebates for one or both... but only for fucking home-owners. While every bloody party/candidate likes to castigate the others on the housing 'crisis' in Victoria and acknowledges that there's a lot of people renting, are any of them actually thinking that maybe renters might like to install rain-water tanks or solar heating themselves?!? Unless we either come to some individual arrangement with the landlord or get them to pay for it, we're largely left out of the issue, and have been for ages. GGGGRRRRRR!

Bugger

The Watcher
I appear to have just deleted an entry rather than posting the bloody thing, and even the auto-save feature doesn't seem like it can save me this time... :( Smeg!

The upshot of it all was:

* Spent the weekend at a gig for First Intervention in Melton. mugung and I were providing support to the competitors of the V8 Jet Boats World Sprint Challenge. Some very special and messy crashes, but only two patients taken off our hands by MAS.

* The Most Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy has continued to throw me the occasional interesting patient lately - including a girl having ?neurogenic / ?psychogenic seizures who made some of Linda Blair's antics in The Excorcist look mild, and another girl who decided to see what fun a clash between heroin and amphetamines might be when taking place inside her body.

* Finished uni for the semester and assuming I pass I'm trying to work out what subject(s) to do next year. The course has been restructured yet again, suddenly giving us a lot of good elective options to choose from.

* Leaving for the Great Vic Bike Ride on Friday, and won't return until The Feast of St. Lulu December the 3rd. I expect to be out of touch by all but mobile for the majority of that time. I'll post my mobile # in a separate locked post in case of important/urgent stuff.

GGGRRRRR!!!!!

Take Me Back...

The Watcher
All my life I've had intense reactions to music. Certain songs or instrumental pieces will give me goosebumps, raise the hairs on the back of my neck, make my chest tight, and leave me tingling or shivering all over. What music, and why, varies over the years. I don't imagine that's unique to me at all, but it's been happening frequently lately and I always find physical reactions to mental events interesting.

Last week in the gym it was Marc Cohn's Walking in Memphis. For some reason the idea of the ghost of Elvis walking through the gates of Graceland unremarked by security and unnoticed by anyone but the trailing singer seemed incredibly poignant to me. tooticky says she's always thought of it as a particularly Usu-like song, partly because of the gospel references. It never occurred to me before, and I remain curious as to the full reason for that one, but I like it.

On the way into work yesterday it was Matchbox Twenty's Unwell. In this case I think it's a particularly me song. It's the banjo. But it also reminds me powerfully of a fair chunk of the past two or three years. It's not that I've been diagnosed or treated for anything specific or serious, but that lingering gloom and struggle to pull my shit together has been a recurring theme, including the 03:00 conversations with the wall, the insomnia and apathy, and a whole bunch of other less than fun stuff. It's a beautifully crafted radio-friendly piece of schmaltz that seems to hit me right between the eyes.

And early last week I found out that a step-cousin of mine had died. I presume he died of something cardiac, as he was discovered dead in bed by a friend who went over to find out why he didn't turn up to work. He was 34. We were never really close, but as kids we both spent a lot of time on my maternal grandparents' dairy farm in Gippsland, and while we became very different people as adults it would appear that that time had a lasting effect on us both. Apparently R once requested that his ashes be interred at Warragul cemetary (a long way from where he lived for the past few years) because the time he spent on that farm was the happiest in his life. I can respect that. I'm sad that maybe nothing else equaled that time, but I miss the sound of wind in the grass and the cows too. I think that now he has that sound, and at least some of the view from the slopes of the Warragul cemetary remains unspoiled by the town's expansion. His death brought Noiseworks' Take Me Back to mind for a lot of last week.

Recently, there's also been Coldplay's 'Fix You', where the second half of the song more than makes up for the falsetto vocals of the first half and the sentiment is close to unbearably perfect for pre-hospital care people, especially at some ungodly hour of the morning when everything is vaguely surreal, highly symbolic, and all is connected; and 'The Scientist', which has many deeply personal associations. Just prior to overdosing on angsty Brit-rock I was struck again by 'Hemisphere', the opening song for RahXephon with it's clock-like and bubbling sense of urgency and (again) highly symbolic and ethereal lyrics. That ticking sound and the ascending staccato run as the song movies into it's second part are beautiful and chilling.

On a related note (pun intended), it's good to see that the CSIRO has been spending our taxes wisely. There's research into geo-sequestration, the genome of the merino sheep, and a whole bunch of other useful stuff... and then there's the air guitar shirt. Gone are the days of weird facial contortions and nimbuses (nimbi?) of saliva as air-guitarists attempt to produce the same distorted sounds as their rock gods. Now with the CSIRO's latest engineering masterpiece, a PC, and a bank of speakers big enough to make Pink Floyd or Disaster Area look vaguely nervous, they can rest assured that their air-guitar moves will be well supported by awesome screams and howls of pure rock power! :)

Postcard

The Watcher
I'm still alive... just wading through the murky waters of the end-of-semester work requirements. I've posted the last of my short answer questions to Web CT (a bit over a hundred words on "The majority of paediatric drug and clinical interventions are in most services limited to Intensive Care Paramedics. Is this appropriate?" No, not really), have finally bought the textbook so that I can finish off the work requirements there, and am half-way through another case study (although the hard half remains).

Work has been decent lately. I've had bland and relaxing shifts with First Intervention at things like driver training days for Mercedes, and full-on but at least vaguely amusing shifts at Hell on Earth With Fluorescent Lighting. flowerofwinter and I had a heroin OD patient the other week, which was my first in about three years, and her first ever. It's been a while since I ventilated anyone (and I'm not entirely happy with either the speed of our respiratory status assessment or the seal I was getting with the bag-valve-mask) which worked out okay in the end. I've seen so many different drug ODs over the past few years that I couldn't quite believe I was really seeing a genuine opiate OD, even as the MAS crew were pushing the naloxone. We also had an 'international incident' involving a poor guy from Hong Kong and his family, a nut case wielding either a spoon or a screwdriver (or both), a ?Polish guy with a bad back, a ?Egyptian little old lady with hypertension and hypoglycaemia, tons of Security and police, MAS, and damn near including the Chinese Consulate General (it would have if we could have gotten hold of someone from the office - and for the record, they have the most useless answering machine message ever). And a couple of vaguely interesting chest pain patients. I may get around to writing up the stories properly at some stage, but I'm a tad busy right now.

In other news, tooticky and I had three and a bit days off in a row together over the Cup weekend... which is a thing that hasn't happened since our honeymoon, I think. I need more of those. We used some of it to go to one of my nursing friend's birthdays, where her ex-bartender partner tried to get me drunk on margaritas with only limited success (I just don't drink fast enough); some of it to visit Tooticky's family in the hills; and some of it to acquire and watch of of the rest of Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica. Channel 10 can bite my shiny metal arse for cancelling it 2/3 of the way through a season, and yes, I have called them to express my ire. EzyDVD, on the other hand, remain my geeky DVD suppliers of choice. :)

And since I seem to have been acquiring a group of new readers over the past few months, most of whom are completely unknown to me, hello to you all. Feel free to introduce yourselves. :) I'm also told by other LJ friends that I have a bunch of casual, invisible, and anonymous readers as well, which makes me feel like a minor celebrity, slightly weird, and mostly inadequate when it comes to blogging. Go find yourselves something well written and consistent to read... ;(

Newspaper cuttings

The Watcher
I was working at the Working with Wood Show with First Intervention again over the weekend (most interesting pt. was a delightful old codger who dropped his BP, took a while to recover, and began to throw occasional PVCs as he was improving), and took the opportunity to catch up on some news. I just haven't gotten around to writing about until now. The Age in particular had a string of stories that caught my attention, although the first has since been commented on and critiqued in a couple of places:

Welcome to the year 3000 and a brave new world

erudito was clever enough to track down the original piece too, which is a little more reasoned than the news articles. That article kind of segued into the next, which may of interest to any number of my friends, especially the well-endowed ones who continually have trouble finding bras that actually fit:

The boom in busts: breasts getting bigger

Which also led me to the next article, since body image and modification issues seemed to be the theme for the morning's reading. It may be of some interest to pointilliste (although she probably already knows):

Weight-loss drug works, says expert

The headline is not exactly radical since all of the weight-loss drugs released over the past decade or so work (to a point), but the mechanism of action is interesting, and of possible use to foodies like me, where a love of food and eating seems to be the issue more than anything else (maybe I'm just orally-fixated...)

And lastly, while everyone else was speculating on what we all might look like in the year 3000, there's this one which perhaps has some slight bearing on where some of humanity might be living:

Probe puts Mars in the picture like never before

My own inclinations about what scientific research we should be investing time and money in tend toward sorting out the planet we currently have, and working out what to do with ourselves; but space exploration is intrinsically pretty cool. :)

And sly_girl also found a news story about the homeless choir I had been providing first aid coverage for while she was browsing the news too. I'm pretty sure than anyone familiar with Smith and Brunswick Streets will recognise the guy right in the middle of the photo too - it's the inimitable Louis, who used to come and badger my customers at Net.City into buying the Big Issue while they were attempting to look at pr0n jobs on the interweb:

Homeless choir sings to the beat of city street

Theology

Touching the North Wind
Two questions have come up in random conversation with umlimo over the past week. One was inspired by something we were watching on Oz I think, but I can't remember how the second one got going. Bloody philosophers! They just ramble on, and on, and on... Where's the hemlock when you really need it? Both were in reference to Christianity, but they may well have some relevance to other religions as well.

The first is, is it possible, or useful, or desirable to have faith without repentance? Umlimo argues that he can believe in a God without having any reason to repent his alleged sins. I contend that for any God worth believing in (for me anyway), repentance is the flip side of belief. If I believe in God and the concept of holiness and sin, and the flawed human state, then repentance and forgiveness are what makes it all worth while.

tooticky rolled out the more Gnostic argument that any God that demanded repentance was probably a lost cause, just to throw a spanner in my theological edifice. Then laughed, and said I just wanted a Big God. A mighty fine God.1. I'm forced to agree with her there.

And the second question is, if we actually created an AI, would it suffer from the implications of the original sin, and fall into the same flawed human state...being built by humans... but independent of them, and not human after all? Umlimo and Tooticky argue that an AI wouldn't be regarded as having a soul, and therefore the question is pointless, but I'm still intrigued by the theological ramifications of that one. Another of Tooticky's suggestions is that AI's might fall into a similar category as angels: created beings with specific roles... and no souls. At least as far as we know. I think that's a likely answer, but I'm still left wondering. AIs would be an entirely new form of entity, and I suppose I had better define the term here. I'm thinking of the 'big' AI (in a similar sense to the 'big' God, I suppose). A self-aware, thinking, and curious intelligence, with few to no limits on its internal thought processes and subjects. Surely such entities would be recognised by God as something. I'm just not sure what. Are they part of the human state and humanity? Are they something new, and either 'innocent' or largely irrelevant?

Frankly, I think that second one's more likely to happen than contact with alien intelligences, at least any time soon, and much more likely to set the theological worlds on their heads as a result.

So, what do all my clever friends and acquaintances out there think and believe?

1. And 10 points to anyone who gets that reference.

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The Watcher
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