Monday, 28 December 2015

Resolutions and Diet

I don't do new years resolutions. Waste of time because nobody in their right mind sticks to them. I do have hopes and plans for the new year though.
One of those plans is to try and tailor a diet that suits my own personal needs. I won't say I'm going to go completely paleo because I know nutritionists and dieticians will go all "Rosanna Davison" on me because paleo is the "latest fad diet". Personally, having trialled it for a while a year ago, I can see the benefits to my energy levels, my body shape and muscle tone and even my sex drive. But there are drawbacks. Especially with high fodmaps in things like onions, avocados, cashews and cabbage and certain other fruit and vegetables. There are also highly acidic foods like tomatoes and red bell peppers. I am sensitive to fodmaps and my own research into diet has suggested that an unbalanced body ph on the acidic side can draw calcium from bones and I was vitamin D deficient in 2014, the very vitamin that helps bones take in calcium. So that is why I won't stick to a specific type of diet. Just tailored food intake to suit my needs. It will take inspiration from paleo however because it consists of very natural food that is easy for the body to draw nutrition from.
The goal of the diet is to gain (yes gain) weight and stay above 70kg if not 72 or 73. Hopefully increasing my energy levels and helping me get to a reasonable fitness level. I want to try and stretch muscles and joints to be more flexible as well. Fitness is the other plan to try and work on for 2016.
But it all comes down to sorting out my finances first. If I can move to a flat closer to the college and where I'm entitled to rent and fuel allowance on top of my back to education allowance it would be a major boost to being a healthier and fitter me in 2016. So that's what I want to make happen. Sort out my financial situation so I can tailor a diet that increases me to a healthier weight, maintain a certain weight range and increase my energy levels to where I can get fit and still have time and energy for college studies.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Further College Stuff

Well, the Christmas exams in college were a disaster. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I wasn't ready for them anyway. It got me thinking. As well as suggesting to lecturers to find a way of teaching that helps necessary information to sink in, maybe I need to study in a way that's going to be less off-putting and more motivating. One possible idea is blogging the basics of what was covered in each subject each day. But maybe I would be better off setting up a new specific blog for that. But that's one way I could integrate something I'm somewhat enthusiastic about (blogging) into my studies and making the learning process less tedious. I'll think about it a while longer in the hope other ideas at least as good develop.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

College So Far

This might turn into a bit of a rant but maybe not - we'll see how it goes.
I chose Limerick IT over Tralee IT mostly because I was getting straight into second year and wanted to be qualified quicker, but also because my landlord in Tralee was pressuring me to pay those horribly corrupt and anti-human rights water charges that are against my principals. I started looking for a place to live in Limerick in July. When I found a place it was far away from the college and I couldn't move in until the day I was due to start. So I had no time to settle in and get my bearings before starting college. So I was unsettled and distracted starting college. I don't qualify for rent allowance or fuel allowance either because the other tenant in the apartment is in employment, which is stupid because he's not related to me and we're not dependent on each other.
Next thing I had to let the social welfare know of my change of address. I also needed a letter from the college confirming my attendance for the social welfare to continue my back to education allowance. These delays meant my allowance was cut off so my rent was late leading so more unsettling distractions. I ended up missing a maths test because of having to go to the social welfare to sort things out. Luckily that test is only a very small percentage of my overall mark for the year.
Then I saw how much weight I had lost when I was weighed at the coeliac clinic confirming that I wasn't eating enough because of a limited budget. No wonder I was so drained every evening, but with so much on my mind it was very difficult to get to sleep or get back to sleep if I woke up during the night. I neither had the energy nor motivation for study beyond classes.
They didn't tell us that we would need to buy equipment for a couple of subjects at the start of the course. This meant that I fell behind in a couple of practicals. Indeed one of them I'm still behind because of the only faulty cheap equipment I could afford not working properly anymore.
On top of all that my mobile phone was cut off.
The money issue will be sorted if I can get a place of my own where the landlord takes rent allowance. But the other issue is more difficult to sort out. That is the teaching methods. They are unlikely to change years of proven methods for a single student. I'm not an academic person. I'm more suited to the FÁS/SOLAS model of learning by doing. Even if I study enough there is always a chance I freeze in a test if it is not how I expected it to be. Also in the college we only have one 2-hour practical per week for each subject. At least two of those have limited, basic equipment and in a lot of cases we have to share equipment so we don't get the full 2 hours by ourselves to practice when that is what's needed. Sometimes sharing with the right person can be helpful though. So not being academic and little scope for putting theory into practice means learning is difficult when it comes to my own personal needs. I'm not the type of person who can sit down and study college notes every evening even if I had the time. I have to love, or at least like, what I'm doing to immerse myself enough to put the hours in. The teaching methods for certain subjects put me off studying because I don't get to the stage where the info I need clicks into place. When that click happens I can get into a routine of knowing how to do things and thriving. Putting things into simple layman's terms using analogies and tips and tricks for remembering methods and procedures are what clicks things into place outside of helping me work out physical methods for practical applications. But I'm being bombarded with heaps of off-putting, discouraging notes in college.
So my lack of enthusiasm has lead to a lack of study and possibly failing exams I would easily pass if they had a better way of teaching to hold my interest and increase my enthusiasm. I would be good at assignments as well if I could get them all done in class times. When I go home from college I want to relax and wind down after a long day. But having to trek long journeys to the nearest shop for groceries and having to take the time to cook proper meals because most of the quick and easy food contains gluten is another thing that means it's sometimes as late as 9pm before I get to really sit down and relax. Sometimes later if I have to stay and use the facilities on a day that classes finish at 6pm. Not to mention that I have to walk from one side of the city to the other to get to and from college on days I can't afford public transport.
So I could have thrived on this course because I have the intelligence level for it. But it's the external forces preventing my personal needs from being accommodated that are the problem.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Coeliac Clinic

I was at the coeliac clinic in Galway university hospital outpatients yesterday. I lost a lot of weight. My normal weight is between 76-80 kg, usually close to 80. My weight is 69.5 kg. Mainly because I'm on a limited food budget and have to walk a lot to where I need to go. But the doctor ordered another biopsy to see what's going on in my small intestine. I don't know when that'll be yet. I was functioning very well over the summer because I was eating well. Not quite eating enough but eating the right food. But with college I have started to look for short cuts just to be able to eat something and some of my old symptoms are returning. I will try to move to a place that takes rent allowance as well and closer to the college so that I can eat a bit more and have more time on my hands. Anyway, there were also various blood tests taken. They'll contact me if there's anything wrong. But the last bloods in May were so good the nurse giving me the details thought I wasn't coeliac. I expect these to be the same. We had a poor summer so I'll have to watch for a vitamin D deficiency. I'm expecting that blood test to show low vitamin D.
I also saw the dietitian. She explained fodmaps to me and also told me to try and get more fat in my diet to get back up to my normal weight. But she said I have to cut down on sugar first because it could be an imbalance between good and bad bacteria and intestinal yeast that's causing me to crave sugar. I have to get the gut flora balance first before I can gain weight. The dietitian will make another appointment for me to see her. I wish she explained fodmaps and took the time to tailor a diet suitable to my body's needs first time in April of last year because I haven't seen a dietitian in between and it might have saved me a lot of suffering through trial and error. But she said she hopes to get a more detailed analysis of my diet and come up with a better plan in the next appointment.
To sum up, here's what I think is going on in my digestive system: there was (slowly but surely) gut healing over the summer because I was eating a lot of the right food and was functioning well. My energy levels were never quite 100% because my limited budget meant I was probably averaging under 2,000 calories per day. So I lost weight. Since moving to Limerick and starting college I have not been able to eat as much as I did over the summer due to time and budget constraints and having to walk long distances to get where I need to go. I have also been taking short cuts by buying quick and easy processed foods and sharing accommodation and the college canteen means cross contamination risk. So some of my symptoms from the spring are returning. I think the new biopsy won't show up much, if any, damage. That'll prove that I know why I lost so much weight.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Mature Student

I started in Limerick Institute of Technology on the first week of September. But it was for a couple of hours each day doing a bridging maths course. Maths is essential for a career in Engineering and therefore essential to my course. The course - Industrial Automation and Robotic Systems - didn't start until the second week. Although there were no tutorials or practicals the first week of the course they were still pretty full days of trying to find my feet and seeing what I'm behind in compared with other second years. I got entry to start in 2nd year. It was a bit confusing at first trying to get my bearings and I'm still finding my way around the place. There are student leaders who are very helpful though. The pace hasn't got too hectic yet. But it's only the second week. I hope to say a bit more about college and being a mature student another day.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Spinach Sauté Side Salad

A continuation from my previous blog post. This is the side salad in the photo for Chicken Braised with Celery.
Serves 1-2.
Ingredients: A bunch of Spinach (I buy it washed and ready to eat)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 garlic cloves, diced (I didn't have garlic so I used roughly a clove-sized portion of ginger root and it still tasted nice)
1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced (basil doesn't agree with me so I tried what I thought would be a nice flavour and used dill)
1 tablespoon cilantro (coriander)
1/2 to 1 red bell pepper thinly sliced (approx. matchstick size if possible)
1 lemon cut in half

Method: Heat oil in a pan over a medium flame. Stir in garlic for 1min. Toss in spinach, basil and cilantro and mix thoroughly for 2min. Remove from heat. Top with pepper slices.
Squeeze half of the lemon over the greens and slice other half and use as garnish.

Chicken Braised with Celery

This is my version of this recipe. No grains, peas, beans or dairy (serves 1 or 2)
Ingredients: 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken portions
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
4 to 6 celery stalks, sliced in half lengthwise and width wise
2 to 4 carrots (or, as I've used, a combination of carrots and parsnips), sliced in half lengthwise and width wise
1/2 cup Chicken Broth (a recipe for another time perhaps. Use your own chicken stock, as we call it, recipe if you have one)
1/2 cup dry white wine

Method: Preheat oven to 205C (400F)
Heat oil in a pan over a medium flame. Add chicken and cook, skin side down, for 5min. Turn chicken over and cook for another 5min. Remove from pan and tent with foil. 
Add shallot to pan and cook for 1min. Add celery and carrots and cook without stirring for 2min then turn over and cook for another 2min. I normally plate the veg at this stage but foil to keep warm.
Place chicken back in pan, skin side down. Pour in broth and wine. Cook for 20min, turning at halfway point. 
I have a separate grill compartment instead of a broil setting in the oven so I normally set my grill to a medium to high heat setting while the chicken is cooking in the pan. Change oven setting to broil and bake chicken for 3min to brown the skin. I put it in the grill for 3min and leave the door slightly open (because the grill would switch off if I closed it). Remove from oven and cool for 5min.
Thanks to the Paleo Diet Cookbook (Loren Cordain, Ph.D.) for this recipe. I will post the side salad recipe in the next blog.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

My Dreams

I had a couple of dreams before waking up this morning that I wanted to share. The first involved my nephew's fiancé Katie. I was in college and Katie and her sister and a couple of her friends moved to Ireland to study in the same college as me. She didn't have much time to talk to me because she and her sister and friends were so busy settling in to college life in Ireland. One good thing about the dream is that I intend to start college as a mature student in September. So maybe it's a good omen. I don't know why my nephew wasn't in the dream but it didn't seem strange in the dream.
The other dream was one of those dreams that feels so good that you want it to go on a bit longer. I was in Dublin airport with my younger brother. I didn't know where we were going. All I knew was my brother was picking where we would fly to. I went to the toilet and told him that I would catch up with him so he went on to the check in. When I came out of the toilet I saw Kate Richie (best known for playing Sally in Home and Away) in the waiting area and (unusually for me) I plucked up the courage to sit down and say hello to her. I sat with one empty seat between us and introduced myself and told her that I was a fan. She smiled and encouraged me to sit closer, so I did. It wasn't a naughty dream or anything like that. We just had a very friendly chat. You know that elated feeling you get when you have a very pleasant and friendly encounter with an attractive member of the opposite sex? Well that's the way I felt. The Kate Richie in the dream was cheerful, bubbly and a little bit flirty and I forgot about catching up with my brother for a while. Just as I remembered him I woke up. I wanted to stay in the dream a bit longer to see where the chat with Kate would go. It was a little disappointing to wake up from. But one of the best dreams I had in terms of how I felt in it.
Anyway, just too dreams I thought I would share with the world. They would be too long for twitter and an overly long Facebook post as well so I wrote about them here.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Referendum: Why I'm Voting No

First of all a brief word on the Marriage referendum. Whether you agree with marriage of two people of the same gender or not, it's not about surrogacy or anything like that. I read the information leaflet from the referendum commission and it is about defining marriage in our constitution and legislation is going to deal with the issues of how it effects children, not the referendum. But that is not the referendum I want to talk about in this blog post so I won't say here how I will vote in it.
I am talking about the referendum on the minimum age for presidential candidates. At the moment it is 35 but a yes vote would reduce it to 21. I intend to vote no for two main reasons in no particular order. First of all I think the only change needed in that particular section of the Constitution is to change "his" to a gender neutral word. I doubt a referendum would be needed for that since we have already had two women presidents. The main reason for why I believe a no vote is appropriate is because I don't think a 21 year old has had enough life experience or political experience to be a head of state. Sure Brian O'Driscoll captained the Irish rugby team at that age and was a great leader in the team throughout his career. But he was representing his country in a different way. I'm not saying he wouldn't be a good president now if he put the same work ethic into politics. Just not as a 21 year old whose career is in Rugby, not politics or law.
Eamon de Valera fought for the country to help found the state. Patrick Hillary was involved in keeping the Fianna Fáil party together during the arms crisis in the 1970s. He also showed his experience and duty to his country when upholding the Constitution when the same party tried to manipulate him into allowing them to seize power without an election when the Fine Gael - Labour Government broke down in the early 1980s. Mary Robinson was learned in the law and constitution and I remember her telling a story a few years ago about how an attempt by Haughey to exploit a potential loophole so as to remove her just as she took office backfired on him because she pointed out that she was fully aware of, and studied the Constitution having qualified in law and the advice he got and interpretation he had were incorrect. She also had a history of standing up for civil rights. Mary McAleese is from Northern Ireland and had experience of the troubles and was a news reporter among her life experiences before politics and fully aware of what was going on in the country. Michael D Higgins had a long political career before becoming president and no one could doubt his credentials before election.
Now, nobody is perfect. I have many criticisms of our current government and the fact that our president signed some very controversial bills into law and maybe there are some things a 21 year old upstart would do better in the Dáil. But we do not have a monarch that inherits the position of head of state. We elect ours. So we must choose wisely. Would you rather have a young twenty something that the government can bully and manipulate in office or a person that is experienced in the mechanism of constitutionality and the state? I don't think a 21 year old is ready for the Áras. I would prefer a seasoned statesperson there. So I intend to vote no.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Salmon Fillet with Nectarine Infusion

I had this for dinner today and it was lovely. I didn't have nectarines so I replaced them with lemon. I didn't have an onion so I replaced it with a clove of garlic. I used lemon juice instead of lime juice because, you guessed it, no lime. But it still tasted fantastic. The recipe here is for four so I adjusted the portions to suit one person.
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons minced cilantro (coriander used as a season or garnish)
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice 
4 salmon fillets (wild for paleo diet)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large nectarine cut into very thin wedges
Method:
Preheat oven to 218 C (425 F).
Combine cilantro, onion and lime juice in a small bowl. Brush skin side of the salmon with 1 tablespoon of the oil.
Place fish, skin side down, on a wire rack. Press nectarine wedges evenly onto salmon flesh and cover thoroughly with lime mixture. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and bake for fifteen minutes.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Death DTA Tours

March the third 2015 at the Academy in Middle Abbey Street, Dublin will live long in the memory. I booked a ticket for the gig in January and there was a sale on for train tickets so booked those as well. The hotel was actually cheaper for a double room. I booked for two people at €43 because a single room for one adult would have been around €68.
I wasn't familiar with the opening acts. Loudblast opened up proceedings. There wasn't much of a crowd when they started. But as the body count gradually increased the atmosphere improved and people warmed to them. The vocalist was impressive the way he could play lead guitar while growling out death metal lyrics. The other guitarist had some sweet solos as well. I enjoyed them. They got a lively cheer and applause leaving the stage.
Next up were Abysmal Dawn. As with all of the Loudblast stint, I watched most of Abysmal Dawn's set back near the bar beside the mixing desk / sound engineer booth. They exuded power and "oomph!". Impressive drumming, impressive soloing and riffing, impressive backing vocals from the bassist, impressive overall in fact. Towards the end of their set I moved towards the side of the stage and watched the last couple of performances from a closer perspective.
I was in front of the stage closest to the vocalist/guitarist for the majority of the headline act. Steve DiGiorgio, the bass player, did most of the talking between songs. There was fierce moshing and the occasional body crowd surfing. Great atmosphere. I never got to see Death live with Chuck Schuldiner but this was the next best thing. They had a guest vocalist for a few songs in the middle of the set. He also took on Chuck's guitar parts and played Bite The Pain from The Sound of Perseverance album.
They played songs or medleys from every Death album from Scream Bloody Gore to The Sound of Perseverance. I don't remember the exact order but they opened with The Philosopher and finished with Pull The Plug. In between were Zombie Ritual, Baptised in Blood, Leprosy, Left to Die, Spiritual Healing, Within The Mind, Flattening Of Emotions (nice drum intro from Gene Hoglan), Lack Of Comprehension, Suicide Machine, Overactive Imagination, Trapped In A Corner. Most of the songs were from Human and Symbolic albums. Half the lineup (Gene Hoglan and Bobby Koelble on guitar) were involved in recording Symbolic and this year is its twentieth anniversary so it made sense to play so many. They played the title track, Zero Tolerance, Without Judgement and 1,000 Eyes from Symbolic.
The second last song of the night was also from Symbolic. It was the classic Crystal Mountain. I let rip into the mosh pit for that because I thought it'd be the last song. I got a belt in the back of the head on the way into the pit at the start of the song. Such was the intensity that I ran out of steam about three quarters of the way through. So I let myself get pushed towards my original viewing position at the start of Death's set and enjoyed watching Bobby solo through the outro of the song. They took a big bow after Pull the Plug and threw plectrums and drum sticks into the crowd, posed for photos and said goodnight. Steve DiGiorgio signed a guy's Symbolic CD. He was lucky enough to get that.
It was one of the best gigs I was ever at and something I can tick on the bucket list. Chuck's Legacy will outlive his thirtysomething years on earth multiple times I'd say. Death Gig Highlights: http://youtu.be/iZOyf1Lmseg

Friday, 6 February 2015

Water: Paying 3 Times

I was watching Oireachtas Report last night and they had a segment on the public accounts committee. Irish Water was given approximately 400 million euro from the government last year. There is approximately 380 million earmarked for this year and 430 million next year if I remember correctly. I'm not sure of the exact share but some of the money is coming from what would normally go to county councils around the country. Guess where the rest of that money is coming from? ROAD TAX. So anyone who paid road tax last year will already have paid twice before they ever get a water bill. I thought property tax was supposed to fund local councils. Does this mean that the funding was taken when property tax was introduced because they expected property tax to go straight to councils, or did they divert property tax that should have gone to councils? I didn't get the full story. But, essentially, those who pay water charges and are up to date with all taxes will be paying 3 times and all they have to show for it is €12,100,000,000 spent on a hated quango that is going to borrow billions more than the government could invest in water supply and waste water infrastructure before a pipe is laid and ridiculous water meters installed by a company set up in what I believe to be a corrupt manner.
There was no leadership or progressive thinking on this issue. The troika said jump and the government said how high. We need to elect a government at the next election that will work hard to give back what the people are entitled to and will give the people that elected them what they need before any eu, troika or other outside influence demands. Not Lucinda Creighton's party because that'll just be "Fine Gael light". The same old fashioned politics, minus a whip, with eddie hobbes' economic policy. 
Those who think protest marchers are trouble makers trying to get out of paying bills are wrong. There are fringe groups trying to use the marches to muscle in with their own agenda. I admit this is unfortunate and wrong. But the majority of us are fed up with how we're governed and want democratic change and taking a stand to show up the mistakes that this and previous governments made.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Famine Sitcom

When I first heard that Channel 4 was supposed to be commissioning a sitcom set in the Irish famine I thought it was disgraceful and insulting. I was listening to The History Show with Myles Dungan on RTE radio 1 before writing this and he had a discussion with two men from both sides of the argument, for and against. I don't know the name of the historian that was against it but his argument against it was valid, pointing out as an example the story of a woman trying to escape to a better life who was refused entry to a ship in Limerick docks because a child had a disease that the child, and subsequently the mother eventually succumbed to. Also that it would still touch a nerve here and asking the question how can you make a sitcom out of something so serious. Myles put the point to him about free speech and the guy understood but said if it is made he won't be watching it, although at the same time he wouldn't be for violent protest or placarding the station either as people have the right to free speech.
On the other side of the argument was Blind Boy from the Rubber Bandits. He pointed out Jonathan Swift's satire "A Modest Proposal". He said it was written shortly before an earlier famine (not THE famine) and was a scathing swipe at the British upper class and British foreign policy and their attitudes towards the Irish (which was a major contributor to famine here). Blackadder's series set during WW1 also satirised the incompetence of some of the leaders that lead to so many deaths and another dark period in history that was portrayed successfully in a sitcom. So his argument was that if a sitcom about the famine was done right it had the potential to be one of the great satires of our time and maybe do some form of justice to the victims.
The famine sitcom is also meant to be written by an Irish man. So instead of passing judgment I'm now going to wait and see. After all Channel 4 did make the classic comedy Fr. Ted. So maybe it will work.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

My Community

I was on yahoo a few weeks ago when, what looked like, a new social networking site was advertised. I decided to try it out. The first thing I noticed when filling out the subscription form was that in the education section it requested you put in what university you attended. I found this a bit condescending to be honest because not everyone is academic and educated in that way. University was the only education option. So I ignored it and continued with the subscription and registration process.
I left it at that and intended returning to add a photo and trying it out another day. Over Christmas I got an email about a notification. Someone tried to make contact. Two people in fact. One was from a woman that used to be in the US army and another from someone in Senegal. I Googled the names (as you do) and lo and behold there were items about spammers using the very names of the people that tried to contact me through this new social networking website - even the US army veteran scam. So I logged in to the site a few days ago and browsed the messages. It was very easy to tell that the so-called "US army veteran" didn't write with a fluidity of American English that you'd expect. It was more in the style of an African on a dating website. At least the person from "Senegal" didn't try to pretend that they weren't African. I'll credit them that much.
Needless to say I deleted my profile. But the website kept sending me emails of general activity on the site, not directly related to my profile, even though I clicked the link to delete my account. So I filled out the contact form today informing them that I wanted them to delete my email address from their records.
The name of the site is My Comms or My Comuniti. It has an orange heading I think. Anyway if you come across this site my advice would be to avoid it. I only got interest from spammers/scammers and deleting my profile didn't stop the site from sending emails.
I just thought I'd share it with the world so that they can avoid making the same mistake I did.