Saturday, June 27, 2009

Feminist subversion or wrongness?

Squeezy has a penchant for wrong English T-shirts in Korea, where she teaches English. Tonight she Tweeted this one from BaboMongchongi:

Image credit: BaboMongchongi

I can see the wrongness, especially on primary school kids, but I am overcome with an urge to buy one for Elissa. 'Cos you know, it is.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Email wisdom

Recently, my mother received a gem of an email from a friend of her's. It had a line in it to the effect that if its sentiments didn't float your boat, you could just delete it. Mum was about to do just that, when she decided that actually, this thing was so abominable, so horrifying - in short a clusterfuck of wrongness, that deleting it simply wasn't sufficient. She wanted to return it to its sender with a summary of what she thought of it. In fact, she wanted to send it on to other people with a punchy, insightful header pointing out why, if you find yourself agreeing with any one if its points, you need to take a long hard look.

Unfortunately, at 11pm last night, we were not long on punchy, insightful summaries. So I am reproducing it here, and asking you to help us turn this piece of hate-mongering into a Media Watch moment.

Thought you might like to read this letter to the editor ~
ever notice how some people just seem to know how to write a letter?.

This one sure does! This was written by a Canadian woman,
but oh how it also applies to the U.S., U.K. and Australia


Here is a woman who should run for Prime Minister!

Written by a housewife in New Brunswick , to her local
This is one ticked off lady.

'Are we fighting a war on terror or aren't we? [Well that hooked me in right away] Was it or was it not started by Islamic people who brought it to our shores on
September 11, 2001 and have continually threatened to do so since? [And the Oklahoma bombing was committed by a Christian - your point is?]

Were people from all over the world, not brutally murdered
that day, in downtown Manhattan , across the Potomac from the nation's
capitol and in a field in Pennsylvania ? [Are people not being brutally murdered all over the world every day in hate-inspired conflicts?]

Did nearly three thousand men, women and children die a
horrible, burning or crushing death that day, or didn't they? [Have not in excess of 100,000 men, women and children suffered the same fate in Iraq alone?]

And I'm supposed to care that a few Taliban were claiming to
be tortured by a justice system of the nation they come from and are
fighting against in a brutal insurgency. [Well, yeah, if you claim to believe in justice.]

I'll start caring when Osama bin Laden turns himself in and
repents for incinerating all those innocent people on 9/11. [So you will continue to demand that people suffer until the impossible happens. Good plan.]

I'll care about the Koran when the fanatics in the Middle
East start caring about the Holy Bible, the mere belief of which is a
crime punishable by beheading in Afghanistan .. [You will not respect them until they respect you. That strategy always works.]

I'll care when these thugs tell the world they are sorry for
hacking off Nick Berg's head while Berg screamed through his gurgling
slashed throat. [Ah yes, point to the horrors of conflict as a reason to incite conflict.]

I'll care when the cowardly so-called 'insurgents' in
Afghanistan come out and fight like men instead of disrespecting their
own religion by hiding in mosques and behind women and
children. [Fight our war in your country on our terms dammit!]

I'll care when the mindless zealots who blows themselves up
in search of nirvana care about the innocent children within range of
their suicide bombs. [Yes, because people so desperate that they will kill themselves for what they believe is right (no matter how misguided) will do so to achieve the after-life of a different religion - huh?]

I'll care when the Canadian media stops pretending that
their freedom of speech on stories is more important than the lives of
the soldiers on the ground or their families waiting at home to hear about them when something happens. [Because exposing a war as a political stunt and getting soldiers out of there won't help anyone.]

In the meantime, when I hear a story about a CANADIAN
soldier roughing up an Insurgent terrorist to obtain information, know

I don't care. [Every time...]

When I see a wounded terrorist get shot in the head when he
is told not to move because he might be booby-trapped, you can take it
to the bank:

I don't care. [ say this...]

When I hear that a prisoner, who was issued a Koran and a
prayer mat, and 'fed special' food that is paid for by my tax dollars,
is complaining that his holy book is being
'mishandled,' you can absolutely believe in your heart of hearts:

I don't care. [ are...]

And oh, by the way, I've noticed that sometimes it's spelled
and other times 'Quran.' Well, Jimmy Crack Corn you
guessed it,

I don't care!! [...what you condemn.]

If you agree with this viewpoint, pass this on to all your
E-mail friends. Sooner or later, it'll get to the people responsible
for this ridiculous behaviour! [But what to do when I just so don't?]

If you don't agree, then by all means hit the delete button.
Should you choose the latter, then please don't complain when more
atrocities committed by radical Muslims happen here in our
great Country! [I will complain whenever any atrocities are committed anywhere, by anyone, and I will campaign to fix the situations that result in people feeling justified to commit them.] And may I add: [No, but I'm sure you will.]

'Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made
a difference in the world. But, the Soldiers don't have that problem.' [They don't, although many, many lay awake wondering what that difference was, and I feel for them, because it wasn't their choice.]

I have another quote that I would like to add, AND.......I
hope you forward all this. [Wouldn't miss it for the world.]

One last thought for the day: [You promise?]

Only five defining forces have ever offered to die for you:

1. Jesus Christ

2. The British Soldier.

3. The Canadian Soldier.

4. The US Soldier, and

5. The Australian Soldier

One died for your soul, the other 4 for your freedom. [Oh my. Oh my. Ok, this one has me stuck. I mean never mind myriad other peoples ignored here (well, you know, Kiwis are really Australians when they're good blokes), there is so much wrong with this...]

OF THEM [Umm, no. Disseminating hate is not among my hobbies.]


As you can see, I was incapable of reproducing it without comment, but I'm pretty sure there are much better take-downs out there.

And in case you are wondering why my mother would bother, why this isn't just spammed with the penis enlargements and offers of Nigerian cash, it is because way too many people agree with this, because people she knows would exchange high fives over this email. Some things are not best left alone.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Older brothers

On the way home from pre-school yesterday, Charlie informed me that tomorrow his "arm will broke off." I assured him that it wouldn't, but he was quite insistent that his bones would break - he knew this because Ben told him so while they were in bed.

My suggestion that Ben was wrong was met with a flat rejection.

Since Ben is not the deliberately deceptive kind, I can only conclude that a conversation about teeth falling out (Ben is currently missing three), which involved an assurance that teeth were bones, has resulted in just a wee bit of confusion. Suffice to say that so far, Charlie's arm bones are intact.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I like rainbows.

This one made me smile.

A hat!

I have finished my first knitting project. Well, actually, it's the first one I finished, but the second one I started. The scarf I began with will need to be 2m long to be useful, which may take a little longer. So I started on a hat for Elissa. I finished it this afternoon, complete with pom pom.

Here it is modeled by a teddy bear, because Elissa is in bed. It's far from perfect, but I learned a lot doing it, and it was lots of fun. Now back to that enormous scarf...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's not pointless after all

I got a survey from the NSW department of health the other day asking about Elissa's experience in the RPAH emergency department in February! I didn't even remember going, but I figured I had probably blogged it. Sure enough, a quick run through my Feb posts turned up this one. It even had how long we had been at the hospital.

But seriously, without a blog, who can remember a trip to the hospital from four months ago? I mean, I suppose if it was a massive, unusual stand-out event you would. But another croup visit? Or asthma for other people or any number of other reasons why one visit might blend in with all the others? Ridiculous.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Feminism 101 - for a 6 yr old

I didn't get a shower this morning, because I was having this conversation:

Ben explains that he doesn't want to go to a birthday party because the invitation is Disney Princesses. After several minutes of fruitless "why", "I don't know" exchanges, we finally managed to achieve actual communication.

Me: Is it because people say that boys can't do girl stuff?

Ben: No, people don't say that.

Me: Is it more in their actions? Boys just don't do girl stuff?

Ben: Yeah.

Me: But nobody thinks girls can't do boy stuff, do they?

Ben: No.

Me: Do you know why that is? It's because boys think they are better than girls, and so they think boy stuff must be better than girl stuff. Does that sound right to you? [granted, this is an oversimplification, but you know... he's 6]

Ben: No!

Me: But, I have to say, I don't like those princesses either. They are a bit pathetic, they don't do anything, they just sit around and wait for people to rescue them. But not all princesses are like that, Princess Leia isn't like that is she?

Ben: No, she's not! And I really like her.

Me: So I'm not saying you have to like all girl stuff, just that you shouldn't decide you don't like it just because it's girl stuff. After all, pink is your favourite colour isn't it?

Ben: [Pointing to the icky Barbie pink on the invitation] But not that pink, that's horrible.

Me: Well, yes. That is pretty horrible. But this other pink is ok. And just because there are princesses doesn't mean the party is going to be like the princesses. L isn't that kind of kid is she? She doesn't sit around doing nothing does she? She was getting soaked and bashing the pinata at your party wasn't she?

Ben: [big grin] Yes. She's fun to play with.

So the upshot is that we will be going to the party, but we won't be buying any Disney Princesses as presents...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Conversation with Crash

Crash: Are you ok for me to go to lunch with Pissy next Thursday?

Me: Yep, that's fine. Oh, except I didn't get to go out last Thursday night, do you think....

Crash: Oh, I'll be home by 4pm

Me: Sober enough to look after the kids?

Crash: Yeesssss

Me: When you are going to lunch with someone called "Pissy"...?

Crash: Maybe we could make it Wednesday?

When non-lethal weapons aren't

Today, Queensland police tasered a man to death. We don't, at this stage, know exactly what happened and who did or didn't do the wrong thing. However, the case brings up a whole raft of issues for me.

Firstly, tasers simply aren't non-lethal. A quick google doesn't throw up any hard numbers on the fatality rates, especially as compared with guns. I found a claim that Amnesty had thrown up a fatality rate of 15%, but I couldn't find any evidence of that on the Amnesty site. In fact, it looks like it's a lot less than that. However, it is definitely not insignificant.

One of the biggest problems I see is that they simply shouldn't be allowed to be called "non-lethal". In the interest of giving the police involved in this the benefit of the doubt, if tasers are described as non-lethal, it is going to significantly change the way they use them. In fact, in the news report, the police claimed that part of their motivation to use the taser on this individual was that he was harming himself. They were protecting him as much as they were protecting themselves. This makes it clear that they don't view tasers appropriately. They are a gun alternative. They are the last resort, which the person may survive. Protecting the person from themselves can never be justification for a taser.

Looking at the news report makes this a bit clearer.
...the man was extremely aggressive, was armed with an iron bar and broken glass, and had harmed himself
Add to this, that he was "damaging property", and that the whole thing took place on a property south of Townsville (ie not in the middle of a crowded street or shopping centre), and it's looking less and less justifiable that potentially lethal force was used against him. Seriously, would people think it was ok to shoot a man with an iron bar, not immediately threatening anyone, on the basis that he might harm himself? Just because he might have killed himself (with the broken glass, I presume, since most people don't beat themselves to death) doesn't mean that the police should have helped him.

The self harm aspect leads me to the other massive issue brought up by this case - mental health. According to other news reports, the man had discharged himself from a hospital against advice after being treated for mental illness of some kind. Now I can't speak to populations statistics here, but I can speak from family experience. My brother-in-law would probably not be alive today if he hadn't been hit by a car. He lived 20-odd years with undiagnosed schizophrenia. That is to say, he was undiagnosed by the medical profession. Most people who knew him had managed the diagnosis. His mother had attempted to get him treated, on and off, since he was 12. However, since mental illness doesn't make you stupid, he adeptly avoided all attempts to treat him, right from the start. He was finally committed and treated because walking out onto Victoria Rd without looking and getting hit by a car apparently finally represents "a threat to himself or others". Years of throwing out all his food because it had been poisoned and never opening windows and accusing all and sundry of trying to kill him - they weren't evidence enough of mental illness. Thankfully, for all concerned, he was lucky enough to survive his defining moment.

Right now, it seems, police can kill a man to protect him from himself, but medical personel can't enforce treatment. This is a difficult issue. I understand that treatment can sometimes be regarded as worse than the illness, and so people should have the right to refuse treatment under some circumstances. On the other hand, my BIL is a testimony to the evil that is done by allowing a person who is currently affected by mental illness to make medication decisions. His illness set in as a young teenager, and ran unchecked until he was about 35. His illness is not too extreme, it is controlled by medication. However, it has affected his developing personality, and while he no longer has paranoid delusions, he will always have paranoid thought patterns. He will never have a close relationship with anyone, he simply isn't capable of it. There are a littany of permanent effects on his life.

I don't know exactly where the line needs to be drawn, but it feels to me that presently, Government has chosen to hide indifference behind protection of individual rights. Clearly any person who is currently medicated and chooses to discontinue medication as a result of side effects should be respected. However, if there is clear evidence of mental illness that has never been brought under control, it is cowardly to claim that the mentally ill person needs to recognise their own need and seek treatment.

I absolutely acknowledge that there are cases and illnesses that make my argument invalid. I know individuals who would rather gamble with their own suicidal thoughts than deal with the consequences of the anti-depressants they have tried. I am not advocating they should be forcibly medicated. However, I believe there is an ocean of unchartered territory between Bedlam and what we have today. We are failing the enormous number of people struggling with mental illness monumentally.

And today, Queensland police killed one of them.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I miss out on all the good stuff

I clearly came home from Tokyo too early, I missed cockpit fires and raining frogs.

All my Jetstar flight had was appalling food balanced out by great service and a widdle bottle of Baileys. As far as I can work out, the flight that ended up in Guam was the same flight I was on. I've never been to Guam. Of course, I was out of clean undies, I wanted to come home.

But raining tadpoles? I'd like to have seen that. It wasn't actually in Tokyo, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

In other news, element 112 has been ratified as real, now we wait with bated breath to find out its name. Cool.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Leadership? What leadership?

I guess we won't be getting a solar electricity system any time soon. Labor have canned the rebate 3 weeks early without warning. Looking into the plausibility of installing such a system was on my to-do list for next week - post Japan, client router problems, delivering a training course and exams.

This is utterly irresponsible from an environmental point of view, and also from a business perspective. Companies trying to operate in this market can't possibly survive if K.Rudd keeps moving the goalposts.

I don't even necessarily want a grant, what I really want is an interest free loan, that I pay off based on a reduction in my electricity bills. But that would be sensible, and sensible and government have never been good friends. Or even acquaintances.

I think it was pretty clear from the last election that global warming is a significant concern for most of the population of Australia, and a significant part of K.Rudd's win. This just isn't good enough.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Food ethics

I have been involved in, or read, a few discussions on food ethics recently. This is an unresolved issue for me. I am exceedingly unlikely to become vegetarian, but I also feel that I am not responsible enough in my food choices - from a nutritional, ethical or environmental perspective.

However, something struck me in the PETA campaign that is currently capitalising on the murder of Dr Tiller. (From such a lofty ethical position, how could I doubt them?) And in fact, it was because of their use of the abortion issue that I thought of it. They are arguing that they can justify their exceedingly dubious campaign because it may save animals' lives. Well, no, it won't. If they succeed, it will mean millions and millions of animals are never brought into existence. People won't suddenly start having pet cows. If we all ceased eating beef, beef cattle would cease to exist, except possibly as a curiosity.

So it actually comes down to one of the issues that comes up in the abortion debate - is it better to never have lived than to live a life that is judged by someone as unlivable? I think my position is the same for animals as it is for people, that there is some point at which it is better not to have lived. Of course, the problem with that position is where that point is. I don't think want to have to make that decision, and I will never condemn anyone else for making one that I don't entirely agree with - well unless you get to extreme examples I suppose. I'm not prepared to accept that life as one gender or the other is not worth living.

In the case of animals, I actually believe that a comfortable life that is ended for the purpose of feeding people (or other animals) is worth living. I think it makes much more sense to campaign for the ethical raising of animals rather than to campaign for not eating them.

Caged layer hens are a black and white case. They live an excruciating life, and there is no excuse for it. We don't even have regulations ensuring that "free range" layers are treated well, never mind banning cage eggs. This needs to change.

Which is not to say that I couldn't stand to eat less meat. But what to replace it with? Many protein options are highly processed, which I have a problem with. I can't eat mushrooms - not allergic, but they make me gag, so not really a food option. Nuts are not bad, but hard to convince the family they've eaten enough when they've had a reasonable serve.

I think I do need to think about it more, but it isn't straightforward. BTW, I am not trying to make some argument that being vegetarian is unethical by causing animals not to exist. There are plenty of reasons to choose not to eat meat, I just think that "to save animals' lives" is not nearly as simple as it sounds.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Conversation with Ben

Ben: Why do you have to pay for petrol?

Me: Because you have to pay for everything.

Ben: Well, do you have to pay to go on rides at Luna Park?

Me: Yes!

Ben: Awwwwwww

Meme silliness

This one's been kicking around for a while. Googling "[insert name here] needs" seems appropriate for Sunday.

So what I need according to Google is:

Ariane needs my help with hat shopping. Well I am rather fond of hat shopping, but I don't really care what Martha thinks.

Ariane needs Chris’s help again and when he complies, he is the target of revenge. I suspect my life is just about anything but a Harlequin Historical

Ariane needs a page turner. I was thinking that after all my stats reading, I did need a page turner, but apparently this is in reference to music pages rather than easy-read novels...

Ariane needs to go! She sucks! I think this is the first time I have managed to insult myself in a meme.

Ariane needs the Pandore library, or any other program library. This explains much - apparently my life is missing essential subroutines.

Ariane needs to cuddle. Mostly I'd like cuddles that don't come with snot...

Ariane needs Java. My day has been disturbingly coffee-free

Ariane needs to talk with a child. Nope, I really think this need is quite fulfilled.

Ariane ... needs a string of successes. I wouldn't say needs, but I wouldn't complain

Ariane needs to get over herself and do her best. Mmmm, fair point.

Apparently I am mostly a computer game, a main character in a movie I've never heard of, a rocket and a contestant on a chef reality TV show.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A long time ago

One of the reasons I started blogging was to have a place to record things I don't want to forget. To this end, I may be recording a few more old stories, but these ones won't have any point to make. Feel free to move on. In the case of this one, definitely feel free to move on if you know me in real life - I'm sure you've heard it way too many times already.

When I was 17, my parents left me at home for the weekend for the first time. Being the very responsible person I was (or possibly lacking a real social life), I didn't throw a party, I just invited a few people over to watch videos. 3 to be precise. My boyfriend, and another couple. We hauled a couple of single mattresses into the lounge room and duly watched videos. We also cooked chips for dinner.

Somewhere around midnight, the other couple left. Then, being the sad individual I was at that age, I fell asleep, in my nightie, on my bed and my boyfriend was putting his shoes on to go home when the crash in the kitchen woke me up. Bf went to investigate.

BF: Screams from the kitchen The kitchen's on fire!

Me: Races to kitchen, sees chip fat on fire. Realises a) the flames are too high to smother with pot lid and b) we don't own a single non-acrylic blanket. Begins to call 000. The phone is in the kitchen.

BF: I'll get the hose

Me: Bellows NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

***About 15 minutes later, standing in my front yard in my nightie***

BF: Stop panicking

Me: Don't tell me not to panic, my house is on fire!

BF: Stop panicking

Me: Slaps boyfriend

So finally the fire brigade arrived, and put out the fire. (We had to wait for the fire brigade from a few suburbs away, as the local one was already attending a kitchen fire.) After I made them search fruitlessly for my dog for 20 minutes (she came home the next day), the firies mentioned that I was lucky - they had found people dead in lesser fires. Then they asked me if the intruders had started the fire. "What intruders?" I asked, more than slightly bewildered. "The ones who ransacked the house..." "What? No, the house always looks like this." Immaculate housekeeping runs in the family.

The wash-up was that the kitchen was destroyed, but the fire didn't spread out of it. The smoke, however, did. The heat was trapped amazingly well in the kitchen, despite a large opening to the dining room. This clock was on the boundary, and only the kitchen side melted.

This homage to Salvador Dali stayed on the wall for years afterwards. Or maybe months. Some time anyway.

And for Australian readers, this was a time delay "Oh my goodness the chips!" - after we cooked the chips, whoever turned the stove off (honestly don't remember who it was), clicked it into low, instead of off. The stove's "on" light had been broken for years, so no-one noticed until the heat built up enough to go woof!

The phone call to my parents was one of the great moments of my life.... "You know how we needed a new kitchen..." Not something I need to repeat.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Political action - and the hard work's been done for you

The federal government, in its infinite wisdom, appears to have decided that the way to deal with insufficient disabled parking spaces is to re-write the eligibility legislation to exclude more people.

And while they were busy fucking it up, they thought they would also change the nature of the eligibility criteria from practical measures (eg "detrimentally affected by walking 100m") to measures of dependence (eg "sometimes requiring assistance from another person"). Oh goody, let's decide who's deserving enough based on irrelevant measures of what the government determines is disabled rather than the difficulty people have in accessing the community.

So anyway, over at Hoyden, a wonderful group of people have done all the hard work and created a form letter for you to use, or you can use it for inspiration to write your own. Please look at all this and do something. This has not only practical ramifications, but it also takes a big backward step in the way disability is viewed.

The form letter is here. A description of why it is awful and the existing criteria is here. Lauredhel's original HAT post is here.

The form letter is reproduced here as well.


Dear [Name OR Sir/Madam],

I am writing to express my concern regarding the scheme proposed in the discussion paper, “Harmonisation of Disability Parking Permit Schemes in Australia*”. The proposed scheme excludes a large proportion of people with disabilities who are adversely affected by regular parking. It does not make sufficient provisions for individuals who require a walking stick, or who use shopping trolleys or prams as alternative assistive devices. It also excludes individuals with disabilities who, although they are able to walk short distances without assistance, are negatively impacted by the requirement that they use distant or inaccessible parking. Consequently, it significantly reduces the number of Australians with disabilities eligible for a Disability Parking Permit, including many of those for whom access to accessible parking is a necessity for living everyday life.

Under current schemes, persons capable of walking only short distances without pain or other incapacitation can use disability parking spaces to access workplaces, educational institutions, healthcare services, shopping centres, and public facilities such as libraries and parks independently. Under the new proposal, these individuals will lose their independence, and be forced to rely on the assistance of others, contributing to their social and political isolation. People likely to be adversely affected include (but are not limited to) those who suffer from illnesses such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, those in the early stages of degenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, those with severe mental illnesses, and those who experience high levels of pain from past injuries etc.

In addition to having a profound negative impact on the independence of many Australians living with disability, this scheme also reinforces the harmful and narrow notion that disability must be visible—via the use of various medical mobility aids—before it is considered legitimate. If implemented, this scheme will particularly adversely affect those Australians who live with ‘invisible’ disabilities, who already suffer significant discrimination within the community.

This level of discrimination against people with disabilities is unacceptable in a nation dedicated to giving all of its citizens a “fair go”. People with disabilities are important contributors to the nation, and thus it is imperative that you expand the eligibility criteria for Disability Parking Permits before this scheme is implemented, for the sake of all Australians—but especially those who live with invisible disabilities.

Yours Sincerely,


More details below the fold.

Celebrating a month of (relative) normality

In two days, Elissa will be 19 months old, which means it has been about a month since she was 18 months, and so it's been about a month since my body finally reached something resembling normality. I am still getting used to being me again.

All sorts of things have not been normal, both psychological and physical. With each of my kids it has taken 18 months to get back to normal, which I can't say I entirely understand.

Now I just need to get out of the habits of being that other person. But that's ok, the habits are not too ingrained, and I am just glad that the low level changes that lasted so long have actually gone. Despite experience, I was still thinking it was never going to pass.

So I'm glad to be me again (modulo not being 20 something anymore). Things are looking up.