A bit temperamental

About three weeks ago we had our research system vendor deploy a patch that for all purposes looked to work perfectly. We should have known better.

Historically patch deployment to the server has always been hit and miss, sometimes we are lucky and a patch has no flow-on effects. Then, other times, despite our best efforts at testing a patch it will only reveal its hidden gems after deployed to production. Sometimes his has been linked to slight differences between the PROD and QA environments, but other times it has been linked to the patch affecting areas that were not associated to begin with.

Our most recent patch involved a patch to our batch communications functionality, we use this to generate documents that are then inserted into a record’s attachments. The latest patch was relatively minor, just correcting functionality that prevented our showing effort to 3 decimal places. The patch worked as expected, first time too, thus we happily requested it deployed. Oh how I wish we hadn’t as this had a flow-on effect to our schedule alerts functionality, these simply stopped running the next day.

Since then we’ve had our vendor and IT Service department working to try resolve the issue, they’ve argued between one another as to the cause, but still we’ve not resolved it. Thus, I am forced daily to run reports manually, sometimes taking up to several hours depending on the number to be run.

The start of July kicked in and I opened Outlook, checked the folder to which we have a rule redirect the scheduled alerts reports, my heart skipped a beat, the reports had run on the 1st. I did notice though that only 1 report had run on the 2nd which was unusual. It was now that my suggestion to our vendor for a daily digest of reports statuses would have been oh so useful, I had suggested an enhancement around 6 months ago whereby a daily digest would show the list of reports run, the number of results returned and whether a report had been generated; currently you are left guessing whether the report ran and whether there were any results.

As I later discovered my glee would be short lived, indeed the alerts had run, though their execution ceased at 10pm on 1 July as reports scheduled for 11pm onwards did not execute. My supervisor did try to console me by letting me know when he’d had to look after this task one time he’d had to manually run the reports for 8 months before the vendor and IT Services managed to resolve the issue, I didn’t feel terribly consoled.


Cut of their tails… if only they’d stay still

So I’m up early on a Monday morning, my favourite day of the week by-the-way (a lie!), and getting ready to prepare my lunchtime salads for the next few days when all of a sudden something darts out-of-sight to my left. It’s a bloody mouse. I frigging hate the things.

We had them invade our house last year, took us over a month to get rid of the bloody things, we set traps, they wouldn’t have a bar of them. Tried adding cheese and peanut butter, clearly we had mice that were food connoisseurs and preferred foie gras instead. One by one I did manage to kill off the invaders, but I never quite felt comfortable having to share my space with these vermin.

The last thing I wanted to kick off my work week was one of these disgusting creatures in my home, no doubt having come in because we’re looking after a friend’s dog and it’s come in via the door Jodie left open (ARRRRGH!).

Where there’s one there’s many, right. I don’t want to go here, ignorance is bliss. Anyone have a cat that has a ravenous appetite? 😥

Ethics Booklets

Last year I was asked to assist with improving the new Research Ethics Manual at work, how little I understood at the time of the task ahead of me.

The booklets had been adapted from those licensed from an eastern states university, thus a lot of work was ahead of the committee to first update them for our own processes before even I began working on them. When the BOX share came through I came to understand the enormity of the task, forty-six booklets in all, and they linked between one another.

I first had a go at linking between several MS Word documents, however hit a brick wall quickly when I went to PDF things, the links weren’t resolving but remained those of the office share drive. I’d like to say I was devastated, I wasn’t, I hate MS Word with a passion. Thus, I looked to my trusty friend Adobe InDesign, though at the time I had no idea just how I was going to handle these kinds of links.

Much research ensued, and eventually I discovered Hyperlink Destinations would quickly become my friend, much like anchors within a website, these could be referenced from another document allowing your to jump to that point automatically “yippee!”. A quick test of this on two basic InDesign documents proved the functionality worked perfectly and resolved when exported to PDF. A final test was to upload to the web and ensure it wasn’t just a local thing, again all hunky dory.

The first round of preparing the booklets took me about 6 weeks part-time to prepare, including searching for imagery to reduce the heaviness of the text. As I produced the booklets and shared the first few with the committee I received highly positive comments, including from the licensee. I’ve just spent another 4 weeks doing the second-round of edits on the booklets, I never thought they’d take this long, and still there’ll be more edits as the committee has deleted sections and forgotten to update links within documents and from other documents to reflect their changes, ugh 😦

I feel as though I should be an expert in research ethics by now, whilst not the case, editing these booklets has certainly made me aware of the enormity of their task and what they must consider. After finishing this afternoon I couldn’t wait to celebrate with a muffin and coffee, I was very much in need of the sugar and java.

New Bed, New Back on-order

Sleep and I have never had that much cherished love affair, try as I may it has evaded me at every turn and left me always wanting more, in search of it, or wondering had it even had it at all. There was a period about ten years ago, or so, where I was sleeping fifteen hours a day on weekends, waking in the afternoons much like a teenager might.

In my mid-20’s I bought my then sister-in-law’s futon, an opportunity for a larger bed and a firmer bed than I was used to. I loved this so much that after a few years working I ended up replacing it with a more luxurious futon with a plush mattress, slightly less firm than that I was sleeping on. I probably slept on this bed for a few years too many, wondering what my next step should be, replace the mattress, or the entire bed. The mattress had started to develop a bit of a dip, my fault from failing to turn it regularly enough over the years, so there was incentive to now make a decision. Plus, I was finding it less comfortable to sleep on, my sleep was affected, I really wanted to turn things around.

For perhaps the first time in my life I actually selected the best time to shop for a new bed, BedShed had an up-to 50% + an extra 10% sale on. Searching through their catalogue I found a gorgeous bed called the Linden, an oak bed with several storage areas built-in. Initially I went to buy a mattress for the existing bed frame but decided to just buy bed and mattress as well as side tables. All arrived a week after ordering, something I wasn’t expecting as I thought it took a few weeks longer, so slightly stoked.

Delivery day had come, time to pull apart the old and begin cleaning the bedroom in preparation for the new. It was strange to see the bedroom as it had looked when I moved into the house ten years ago, so bare, and nice and clean too. I laid down the new Adüm rug and underlay felt I’d purchased from Ikea, the first time I’ve actually had a rug in a bedroom; it’s strange having a rug underfoot where I’ve just had hardwood, feels nice. BedShed dropped off the bed boxes and mattress, I now began unboxing and assembly.

The drawers at the end of the bed were first and easiest, if only the rest had been as easy as this. Next was the headboard, all 35kg of it. The headboard had been delivered upside-down, thus I had to invert it, open the cardboard at the bottom and then begin the process of de-boxing it. Unfortunately the damned box as I am lifting it up gets in the way of my air-conditioning unit, so I had to keep moving back little by little to give me space to continue lifting up, eventually getting there.

Next I had the side rails to connect the drawers to the headboard, here I came unstuck and wondered if my lack of handyman skill was shining bright. The first beam wasn’t connecting up, so I tried flipping it around and connecting it to the other side of the bed – no dice. Whilst it would connect to the drawers the bracket connecting to the headboard was looking to be a few millimetres recessed from where it needed to be, neither Jodie not I could get the screws to catch. I was forced to call BedShed to ask for assistance, all the while contemplating the very likelihood that I might be sleeping on the couch a few nights – wonderful.

BedShed Joondalup were great, understanding I couldn’t connect the bed correctly I was put through to their warehouse team member Josh who offered to come out and look things over. He confirmed the bracket was a few mm off and used longer screws to compensate, then assisted me with assembling the rest of the bed – can’t complain about that service, can you!


It was so sweet to lay on the new bed after disassembly and assembly completed, my back certainly appreciated the rest, though I headed off for a neck, shoulders and back massage just to assist recovery. The following day my back and glutes were on fire, totally letting me know they’d been given a workout. Loving the new bed and the free memory foam pillows I received for using their online mattress selector. I purchased myself new bamboo sheets as a first, totally recommended if you’ve never tried before.


Following Monday’s Emotional Intelligence presentation at work I’ve had night after night of dreadful sleep, my mind just racing with thought and body clock thrown into disarray. The past few nights I’ve awoken from what sleep I have gotten at around midnight thinking it was 5 or 6 in the morning, its effects are exhausting for me. Yesterday at least I managed to get back to sleep, but no luck overnight.

Yesterday I used a new mandolin to help quickly prepare my favourite Thai chicken salad for lunches, a slip and despite my using the guard I’m now bandaged and missing part of the tip of my little finger. Due to insomnia and making the salad at 6.30am? Who knows?

I can’t keep this up much longer, will need sick leave if I don’t get sleep soon.

I just couldn’t …

Our team regularly conducts emotional intelligence sessions at work whereby a team member presents on a related topic. I knew the second I saw Rebecca’s topic on how to handle a team member’s loss that I would struggle.

I appreciated her ability to talk on the topic, she suffered the worst kind of loss about five years ago when her husband was lost to cancer. A several year battle with the disease, she has talked openly about the battle she endured from discovery to his sad, eventual loss.

Our reduced team, several on leave this week, began discussing how did you go about discussing loss when a colleague returns to work, did you broach the subject directly? Would they want you to? Or did you go softly softly?

In my own case I returned to work having been warned that our senior administration officer had emailed the office, except me of course, to inform the team what had occurred, that I’d lost my brother to suicide and would be away for a period. So, when I returned it was already dealt with, I didn’t have people asking where I’d been, and why, they already knew, though there was the initial having to deal with the condolences which initially overwhelmed for the first few minutes.

After those first few minutes I focused on my meditation technique of focus on the breath, helping to calm the emotions. Some in the office did choose to come forward, whilst others held back until later.

Today, almost a year since I returned to work and facing this presentation I found the topic difficult to handle, especially once asked how I dealt with my return to work, I broke down at this point. What they hadn’t known was I’d been struggling with my brother’s loss again in recent weeks, I guess at a low point combined with being exhausted from lack of sleep.

The Four Pillar Plan

Following my brother’s suicide in April 2017 I discovered the Calm app and meditation, it helped me immensely with anxiety at the time, learning to focus on my breathing rather than that which had happened. In recent times the app has introduced Masterclasses, a wonderful addition whereby experts talk on relevant topics such as depression, anxiety, and one I happened to listed to on the weekend by UK doctor Dr Rangan Chatterjee entitled “The Four Pillar Plan”.

Dr Chatterjee’s Masterclass was quite interesting and inspired me to head to Amazon.com to purchase his book for a more in-depth understanding. In his Masterclass he identified the four pillars as being: relax, food, move and sleep. He mentioned having been a traditional doctor, treating the symptoms rather than the causes, but then reaching a point in his practice he felt things just weren’t working.

He had a mother bring in her son one day, he’d cut his wrists and the psychologist had sent them for a script to treat depression. His initial thoughts were to prescribe an anti-depressant drug, but then he stopped, after having listened to the boy’s story that included bullying and taunts of his looks he switched to enquiring how long he spent on social media each night. “Four hours or so” the reply. He prescribed not medication but rather limited exposure to social media for the week before returning. His mood had improved and continued to improve week after week.

The Four Pillar Plan involves looking at four key areas of your life and lifestyle. Relax, the first pillar involves taking time for self and switching off from the world. Here Dr Chatterjee suggests making use of the airplane mode on our phones and considering turning off of notifications that constantly beckon our attention.

The second pillar, food, involves minimising the processed foods in your diet and increasing the ‘rainbow’, having at least 5 different coloured vegetables in your diet each day as well as good fats like avocado and nuts. He mentions research showed eating within a 12-hour window had positive effects on blood sugars and sleep.

The third pillar, movement, involves getting off arse and working towards those 10,000 steps we all hear about in national health programs. Also, include strength training within your exercise regime as he mentions loss of muscle mass independently affects mortality, improves resilience and executive brain function, and our ability to resolve conflicts. He suggests even doing as little as the 5-minute kitchen workout eat day can give benefits, this involving lunges, squats, tricep dips, floor press-ups etc. Also suggested were regular, throughout the day, 2-minute movement “snacks” whereby we get the heart working through mini-workouts.

The final pillar, but by no means the least, is sleep. Dr Chatterjee mentions we are currently experiencing a sleep depression epidemic that is leading to increases in stress and anxiety, and poor food choices. Another side-effect of long-term sleep problems is Type-2 diabetes; increased build-up of beta amyloid protein within the brain leading to Alzheimer’s disease; memory decline; and chronic disease. His prescription to improve things? We need to embrace morning light as increasingly we’re staying indoors more and more and not getting enough natural light; a dark room when we go do sleep at night, and switching the tech off 90 minutes before you go to sleep; keep your caffeine intake before noon; and avoid drinking in the evenings.

I’m only part-way through the kindle book thus far, it’s a really good, easy read. I’d encourage your having a read, it’s inexpensive at only a few dollars on Amazon Kindle:

51x9y71vt9lThe 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life
by Dr Rangan Chatterjee