Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Let's get it started!

I am back at home for the new semester! Yay! I flew down yesterday for an induction today, having expected to be given a certificate. While attendance was not necessary, the overachiever in me was desperate for a win after a long streak without. After high school, where I got a certificate almost every week for something or other, I've really missed certificates!

Of course, due to the sickness of a member of faculty, I was unable to get a certificate today. With the flu doing the rounds, it isn't surprising that he too has succumb to the dreaded flu.

While I would have liked to have spent some more time with my family at home, returning to Brisbane early meant I was able to purchase my course reader and learning guides earlier than I ordinarily would be able to do. Thankfully, it is a textbook-free semester! The grand total for my bound books was a whopping $45! I have had multiple semesters where my total has easily been 10 times that amount! I'm definitely going to be feeling the financial benefits of that!

On the health front, I'm enjoying feeling healthy after giving up sugar. After going to the grocery store I'm noticing it's not exactly easy to be sugar, gluten and dairy free! I generally try to alternate between Rice, Soy and Almond milks, generally based on which ever is cheapest at any point in time. Although I didn't look at the ingredients lists of all the soy milks on the shelf, I couldn't find any that were sugar free! I'm sure that there are some out there and that I'll just have to search harder.

On that note, I'm off to bed. Tomorrow will be filled with beginning some rudimentary readings for this semester.  I'm also planning on doing a fair bit of cooking to build up my frozen meals to make it easier for the semester! Yay!

Good night world!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sugar High!

With just over a week before the new semester begins, I'm getting impatient. I've been back at 'home' with my parents and will be returning to my 'home away from home' tomorrow. I'm quite keen to do so as I swear I have so many things to do. For a start, I've got to buy a table. That's right... my house does not have a table. We have chairs, and I've been meaning to buy a table for six months, but it just hasn't happened. HEL-LO IKEA!

As the title suggests, I'm on a bit of a sugar high at the moment. As I haven't had any sugar for a few weeks, the small orange and almond cake has my heart racing and I'm practically swinging from the ceiling fan. It's definitely great!

I'm eagerly awaiting the release of more information on my subjects this semester, although I'm pleased to report that I have no textbooks to buy this semester! As all law students will attest, textbooks can cost a (not so small) fortune and I'm looking forward to having an extra $500 in my bank account!

With that all in mind, I'm going off to spend some last minute time with my family! My mother is going to teach me how to roast a chicken!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Here's to keeping food groups!

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm currently off a number of groups of foods, one of them being salicilates. I have been off them for almost 2 weeks and I am about ready to begin testing myself to see if there is a reaction. After being off the different groups of food, I feel really good, although it is difficult to know which types of food are causing my symptoms. I won't go into my symptoms, but just know, I'm feeling great now. For a start, I have a lot of energy, am sleeping well and have lost weight even though I have shunned the gym this week. 

So, with that in mind, I am tonight making a delicious pasta, filled with the foods I have been unable to stomach this week. Hopefully (or not) this will find me filled with lethargy and what not. As someone with italian heritage, I cannot even imagine how I would cook without tomatoes and onions! For me, having a tin of tomatoes and a red onion in my cupboard means that I can make any number of dishes, and I will have to learn to cook again if tomatoes are leaving my life.

At least I have today. Today I feast on salicilates! Tomato and onion on a muffin for breakfast, a snack of avocado and tomato on a rice cracker, a salad for lunch and the Pièce de résistance, my yummy pasta sauce for dinner.

On the law side of things, I have almost constructed my time table. I have classes on Monday (well a class on Monday), Wednesday and Thursday, with Tuesdays filled with my continued work at a legal centre. The team I am in have been working on public nuisance ticketing which I have been surprised to find very interesting.

Of course, my time table is currently incomplete, as I still need to find a fourth subject. I have picked an interesting topic from the International Relations course list, although it clashes with my volunteer work. Thankfully, the subject is also available externally, so I am hoping that I will be able to undertake the class internally, but do the lectures externally. I am yet to email this to my lecturer to see if it will be fine, but I suspect it will be.

I'm also delighting in the fact that I do not need textbooks this semester! Whenever that happens I get pretty excited. As I will now be working primarily from my laptop, I'm pretty excited to get started. I purchased Microsoft Office for Mac last night and, although  I wasn't able to download it immediately, I should have it running in no time!

Get keen for a new semester everybody!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A new direction

Hi! My name is Anna and I'm a law student. I'm also healthy. Yup, that's right... I don't chug back litres of coffee on a day to day basis (though I do enjoy a nicely brewed one occasionally) and yes, I eat crazy things like quinoa, lentils, chickpeas and kale. It's not my fault! I swear! I wish I could be like the other law students, living off coffee and coffee-shop cake, but alas, tis not for me. My body sort-of hates me. I'm unable to eat gluten, dairy and, as of last week, salicilates, coffee, tea, sugar and alcohol. Hopefully I will be getting some of those groups back (especially salicilates), but I'm prepared for the worst.

I've decided that I am going to start to blog more often, adding a little more about my 'healthy' lifestyle. I won't go all 'this is what everyone should do to be healthy' on you, just a bit of refocusing. I've retitled the blog 'Obiter Girl: The Healthy Law Student' to reflect my intended goal. I figure that, while my super strange and healthy lifestyle isn't for everybody, I am more than sure that there are things that will apply to others.

Holiday Blues

I really am quite over the holidays. Holidays for me, like many students, entails working, trying to save money for the next semester. Of course, I work primarily for my parents, so I go from very little family exposure to all family, all day! It really is a little too much!

I'm busily trying to craft the perfect timetable for the next semester and, as I am unable to undertake the legal clinic I desperately wanted to do, have decided I will take the family law elective. My decision to do so has shocked some of my friends and family as I SWORE black and blue that I would definitely not be doing the subject. Well times have changed... I'm now a fourth year student with a history of failing behind me and little experience. While I have a journal article published (oh yeah, that's some news I forgot to relay), I'm not so sure that it is enough to secure me a job. With divorce rates as high as ever, I feel it would be amiss of me to fail to even consider undertaking family law. When I look at law firms, so many of them work in family law that having knowledge of the area would be beneficial.

I remember talking to older law students while in my first year and they told me how sad family law is and how many of them were in tears week by week. I don't think this will be an issue for me, but it has been a reason I have avoided it. Right now, there is one thing that is turning me off the subject - the lecture is at 8am! I haven't had an 8am class since my first year and now that I live off-campus, I'll have to leave at around 7am to make it on time! I may live 15 minutes away, but the traffic early morning is a nightmare!

While I'm definitely over the holidays, I am enjoying my new laptop. I purchased an 11" MacBook Air to replace my 13" MacBook Pro that died during exams. It's great, but I'm also looking forward to the release of an updated iMac from Apple. I worked out that buying an Air as well as an iMac will ultimately cost less and  get me a great set-up. I can't wait to have a desktop!

This also means a significant change for me, going back to taking notes on my computer. I haven't done so for some time, but with a new (and tiny) computer it's not only an option, but the best option. Although the 11" MBA has a low-ish battery life, it should be more than enough for my needs. I've also gotten in the habit of always carrying a charger with me anyway, after having a dodgy laptop battery in my old computer.

Oh and yes, I have put my laptop in an envelope. Haven't you?

On that note, I'm off to spend some time with my family.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sleep: Is it really that important?

I've never been the type of person that love to sleep all day. As a child I would make pillow forts that were solid enough to hide the light from my torch, allowing me to read late into the night. As I got older, I would wake up during the night and, unable to get back to sleep, would surf the internet. I eventually kicked that habit, instead staying up into the early hours before sleeping. I have continued to find, however, that if I go to bed at what is considered a 'decent' hour I wake up at least once during the night. I've always thought this to be 'abnormal' and assumed I had partial insomnia, but I'm starting to think that this is actually a more natural way of sleeping.

I've always been told that at night we sleep and our ancestors did the same because there was nothing else to do once it was dark. I've done some basic research and found that, while our ancestors did go to bed soon after dark, they did not sleep through the night, rather for around four hours before waking. They would talk and what not for a few hours before sleeping again for some time. From what I have read, the change in sleep patterns is attributed to the industrial revolution and widespread use of electricity. As more people had access to lighting, it no longer became necessary to sleep as soon as night fell and people began to stay up later, resulting in monophasic sleep.

I grew up in an industrial town, with many of my friend's parents doing shift-work. As a result, I was always aware of alternative sleep patterns, but never anything more sophisticated than sleeping during the day instead of at night.

My first encounter with drastically different sleep patterns was the 28-hour-day:

I loved the sound of it, and it even seemed fairly practical, but I figured it would result in confusion  and disconnect from the real world.

I continued exploring and found polyphasic sleeping. I found a 'popular' form was being awake for four hours and sleeping for 30 minutes, reducing the sleep needed per day and increasing productivity. Not only would this be impractical in so many ways (workplace, uni, socialisation etc) but I am the type of person that takes a lengthy time to fall asleep. If tired enough, I can sleep easily, but I am entirely unwilling to try such a drastic measure.

Biphasic sleep fell into my lap recently and quite unexpectedly. I stopped my research on sleep patterns a year ago and had all-but forgotten my findings. After an afternoon of research, it makes sense. Basically, the idea is that you sleep for three hours (for the super-dedicated), 4.5 hours (for most), or six hours (for others) in the morning. Notice that each number is a derivative of 90 minutes? The average sleep cycle is roughly 90minutes long, though people vary from 60 to 120 minutes. You then get up and go about your day. At some point you have a nap for around 90 minutes (another sleep cycle) and continue your day. The idea is that you can have your cake and eat it too; getting up early does not mean sacrificing late nights! Furthermore, you get more time in your day!

I plan to try 4.5 hours with a 90minute nap as I'm not a huge sleeper. While I'm not starting for a few weeks, my planned sleep pattern will be:
1:00am - 5:30am Sleep
6:00pm - 7:30pm Nap
In an ideal world, my nap would be around 3pm, and most likely will be where my uni classes allow, but reality dictates that it be later on. On two days of the week I will be rushing home from class to nap, hopefully getting it in immediately.

A large part of why I am interested to try this is that many people who have trialled such a sleep pattern have found they are more productive and have more energy. I have heard in the past (though I don't have any references to support this) that it is possible that we get too much sleep. I believe that this is probably very likely, based on the largely sedentary nature of the 21st century. We eat much more than we should for the energy we expend and it only makes sense that we sleep too much as well. It's also cited in many places that sleep is important for learning, so I am interested to see if having a nap in the afternoon helps with the learning process.

While there is plenty of scientific information out there, I think the main reason I am interested in biphasic sleep is that I'm a night owl and love staying up late, but see the practical benefits of being an early riser. I love knowing that few people are still awake and the imagery of writing or reading late into the night. For years as a child I woke up at 3:30am (and then more like 5:30am as I worked out I could stay up 'late') and loved having my day underway early. I love going to the gym in the morning, but don't like waiting until the traffic dies down. While I don't need to be anywhere early, I like to be, but late nights aren't something that I am sure I want to sacrifice.

Unfortunately, many of the people I have found online who have documented their biphasic sleep patterns seem to have reverted to monophasic sleeping after either a short period or an extended period. I know that it probably is not practical in the long term, but I can see the value of it for me at this stage of my life. I will be travelling overseas later in the year and know that I woun't be able to continue sleeping in this way, but during semesters, I see the value. At least I can say that I tried it!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

ugh... practice makes perfect?

I know I have been a fairly prolific poster lately but I suppose exams have had me thinking about relevant things more than usual. After a weekend of heavy studying, I took a past exam and had a look at it.

Admittedly, I rely on past exams for practice much less than many of my fellow students. While it does feel good to practice, I hate doing questions when I don't have answers or suggested approaches that I can work with.

Early on in my degree I loved using practice exams and used them extensively in my exam preparation.  When I failed my first subject, I was confused - I had been doing past exams for weeks without any trouble, how could I have failed? I then realised that being able to answer a question  easily does not ensure the answer is correct and, without an answer to check, can just lead to a false sense of security.

You can avoid this by working with other people and comparing answers, but this approach doesn't work for me. I know that I work better at my own pace rather than working with other people, at least the majority of time.

After a few more exams, I realised it was important to do practice questions and ended up finding a series of books that had exam-type questions with answer structures. I've continued to use these when possible to avoid any risk of being blind-sighted in an exam.

If only law exams consisted of more straightforward questions, with clear answers! There is nothing like going into an exam and knowing the way a particular lecturer structures their questions. I'm slowly trying to make sure I work through a few past exam questions for each exam, but they are often so dry and boring that I'd prefer to work on anything else. Until today...

While I had already had a brief look at one of the past exams for the subject I am yet to sit, I only sat down to have a good look at it tonight. It turns out one of the questions is essentially the plot of The Hangover.

Phil, Stu, Alan and Doug are four friends who live in Brisbane... The four have made a booking at Caesar's Palace, a well known hotel in the heart of the Gold Coast. (For clarification, this is not the real Caesar's palace - Caesar never lived here.)...

The question continues, including Alan's purchase of vintage Jaegermeister, Phil's excessive gambling, Alan's grabbing of the wrong satchel and Mr Chow's chips, illegal parking and the theft of a tiger from Mr Tyson's mansion... It is a huge question with so many issues and a recommended time of 80 minutes to work through the question. Of course, it's so hilarious that I can't help but laugh whenever I try to work through the problem. While it is a different examiner this year, I can't help but be slightly worried that something similar will appear on this year's paper and wonder what I will do if this happens!

Going back further, I found a problem eerily similar to Grey's Anatomy, based at 'Brisbane Grace Hospital'. No joke! Ah I love when lecturers engage with pop culture!