Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas, brought to you by women

If you do Christmas in any form, odds are the women in your life (and yourself, if you is one) are (and have been for a while) considering present lists (and the budgets they represent), planning menus, ordering meat and/or planning other food, checking guest lists and shopping - endlessly shopping. I'm sure there exist boy-girl couples in which Christmas is co-ordinated by the boy, but I've never met them. Oh sure, guys "help out". Some of them might even buy a present or two. My father, in fact, was the food organiser. However, I've never met a bloke who was pulling all the strings, making sure everyone gets a gift (which they might even like), ensuring that all the decorations are done, working out who needs to be where and when. In short, they aren't responsible.

An illustrative example (paraphrased)

Crash: I feel guilty that you're doing so much. If there's anything I can do to help, let me know.
Me: Yeah, actually, I'd like you to be responsible for the booze.
Crash: Ok, I can do that.
Crash: Could you just decide what booze we want and check on the web for the prices at Dan's and 1st Choice?

The idea that men "help out" is a constant meme, but it seems to be on steroids at Christmas. I've even heard men complain that the magic is taken out of Christmas for them if they have to actually make it happen themselves. Well no, there really is no Christmas magic - it's the women doing a bloody lot of work - or at least a lot of thinking, planning and juggling that makes it look like magic. It's all illusion, and frankly, the show could probably use a few more magicians and a few less audience members.

Of course, I still love Christmas, so this post is to thank the women in my life, and all the women before them, and those all over, who are making Christmas happen. Continuing, creating and bending traditions, putting their heart into gifts, food and atmosphere that creates the magical illusion.

On Saturday, I'll be drinking white wine in the sun, ignoring the dodgy lyrics and enjoying the show, even though I can see the strings and all the "from Santa"s are in my handwriting.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Christmas tree O Christmas tree

It took 4 days to finish the bloody tree. I figured I may as well share the pain.

Gif Created on Make A Gif

And finally, it looks like this.

I did it in so many little spurts, I have no idea how long it took, but even after this photo was taken, I found another four ornaments that have been added somewhere in there. 

To the right of the photo is the kitchen, so you can see the tree clearly from two sides as you move through the house. This is effectively only half of the decorated tree. 

The star is a new one. I've wanted an LED one for ages. It looks like this.

The lights on the tree are also coloured LEDs, so it looks like this.

In lieu of a post

I'm less than chipper this week. Rather than inflict you with my angst, here's a photo of my eldest, looking chuffed because he'd effortlessly climbed into a new tree. (The red face is from running from the rain, not climbing into the tree.) 

I can't even take credit for the photo, a wonderful woman from school donated the photo shoot as part of an auction, and I bid for it and won it.

One day, this photo will be the one we look back on and say "You know, it was always obvious he was gay."*

* I'm joking really, I just thought it was funny that this was the shirt he chose to have his family photos taken in.**
** I think perhaps the time where he decided he would need to move to the ACT to marry his best mate might have been more of a giveaway.***
*** No, I don't actually have any opinions on his sexuality, that is clearly his business, and his to discover. OTOH, I see no particular reason to assume he's straight, or any other orientation.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Finishing with unfinished business

I'm into Christmas. I may have mentioned this before. But this year, I'm not feeling the love. I'm feeling like it's all a chore. I've been trying to get stuff organised in advance to avoid the overload, but I don't even know who's going to be here for Christmas Day. I'm still dealing with birthdays too, which isn't helping. Charlie, however, is full of the Christmas Spirit and has been campaigning for the tree to be put up. He even cleaned his room, on his own, without Ben, in order to be allowed to help put the thing up. As we sorted the branches for tree construction, he was singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". He was all helpfulness and smiles.

Tree construction and light application happen simultaneously, since the tree is too bloody big to try to wrap lights around after the fact. As a result, this is the bare minimum level of construction I could reach before calling a halt. The decorations are all sitting next to it, waiting for Charlie to badger me into completing the job. It hasn't lifted my mood though. Still decidedly Grinchy. So I'm completing a decidedly unremarkable NaBloPoMo with an incomplete project. Seems appropriate.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I fail at sentimentality

Tonight was Ben's presentation night, which is also staged as a graduation for the Year 2 kids. It's your standard Infants School affair, musical items and every kid gets an award. It looks like every other group of kids performing.

As the graduation ceremony, Yr2 kids each make a short speech (there are only 19 of them). They all have the same format - 3 sentences - but it's nice for them all to get a chance to say something. As they finish they are presented with a graduation book and Yeo Park badge. After that the Yr2 parents all assemble at the front to be given a flower from their child (nice, if slightly chaotic) and then we all get to watch a slide show of the kids throughout the year. The kids, and then their parents are clapped out of the room. Apparently the latter half of this procedure is supposed to be a Kleenex moment. Hmmm. I'm proud of Ben. He spoke loudly and clearly, he joined in and sang enthusiastically and played his instruments as required. He looked like he was having a blast (other than the group singing at the start, when he looked like it was all a great strain), and he was all joy and bubbles when it was over. I'm really happy for him to be moving on to a new school, with more opportunities and a more grown up view of the world. I didn't even consider shedding a tear.

Mind you, I didn't shed a tear when he started school either. I feel no wistfulness with them growing up, only enthusiasm and excitement. I felt his buzz tonight, it was all about him and his class, and I'm glad he got to enjoy it. I'm looking forward to all the other cool milestones, not mourning the passing of these ones.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I made it rain

Today begins a predicted week of rain in Sydney. This is my doing. We finally found the adapter that will allow me to get my washing machine water out to the garden without leaking all over the laundry floor. Today will be the first load of washing done with the hose to reuse the washing machine water. This is indisputably why it will now rain for a week.

We also planned to have family photos taken in the park this afternoon - photos that have taken over a year to get organised. So the real rain started just after we arrived.

Anyone in WA like me to come and do some washing and get some photos taken in their vicinity?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Stressies

Today started at 6:30am with Elissa stumbling into our room, very bleary eyed. Actually, today started last night, when we went to the PBC for dinner and didn't manage to get the kids into bed until after 10pm. It started out pretty stressful, but ended up delightful - hence the rather long wind up and a 9:30pm bus home.

So when Elissa wandered in this morning, it was pretty clear that she needed more sleep, but, like Olivia, she was not at all sleepy, and didn't have any interest in going back to bed or even getting into our bed. As a result, she fell asleep on the floor next to my bed for two hours.

This was a day of fractiousness and obnoxiousness. Three tired kids. At one stage I sat Charlie down and explained exactly what his behaviour was achieving, and that mostly sorted him out. Until dinner time at least. Elissa maintained the rage for the majority of the day.

There was rage, every single person in this family shouted at some point today. And then the dinner caught fire. That wasn't the worst part of the day.

As an interlude, I had to take the boys to a dual birthday party for their respective sibling friends, and wasn't sure where I was going. As a result, I had to cross a busy road, along with another woman and 3 kids she was taking to the same party. 5 kids, 2 adults and an illegally stopped cab made this an interesting exercise. The woman who got out of said illegally stopped cab added to the fun by yelling at us for allowing our children to stand behind the cab while waiting to cross the road. The alternative was standing in the middle of another road, or being unable to use the refuge island. Since berating us wasn't sufficient, she walked with us and continued. After attempting some rational argument, I finally countered with "Yes love" and she gave up. I love drive by parenting.

Finally, as I took Elissa to put her pyjamas on, I noticed the massive raised red rash over all of her torso, her legs and the tops of her arms. Thanks to Google doctor, I'm pretty convinced that it's hives. Excellent. Google doctor also told me that 80% of all hives are idiopathic, which is a lovely way of saying that doctors have absolutely no clue what causes hives most of the time. Personally, I'm choosing to believe it was an allergic reaction to my Lindt chocolate that Crash fed to her while I was being abused by the woman in the cab. No, I'm not fazed by the fact that the time frames are all wrong.

How was your Saturday? I sincerely hope it was better than mine.

I lie, for all that, it was actually a pretty good day. Which goes to show how weird life really is.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Today I'm grateful for warm spring evenings when I can drive across town with the music just below earsplitting and the windows down. Hot days might be annoying, but I just love a warm night with a breeze. Rather fond of unreasonably loud music too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Accessible schools - echoing Lauredhel

Lauredhel wrote this piece on accessibility in public schools. Read it, because she's right.

At our school today I watched the awkward maneuvers of a child and carer trying to get the kid and his chair up steps and through a too narrow gate. It's an old school, there's no doubt it would take a bit of creative thinking to make it accessible without making a mess of it, but I think that kid alone is worth that creative thinking and some well spent dollars. Of course, he isn't the first and he won't be the last. We either fix the problem, or we're saying that kids, their carers, volunteers and teachers with disabilities don't deserve equal access. We're saying that there's no problem with them being excluded, or having their independence reduced because we can't be bothered thinking laterally and spending the time and money on making the places accessible.

We need to make some noise about this, and I'm reproducing Lauredhel's list of people and places to direct your shouting at.

Find a link to your state or territory parliament here:


Find your local Greens member/senator/candidate here:


If you'd like to make some Federal noise too:

Find your federal electorate here:


Find your federal member here:


Find your federal senator here:


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Today I'm grateful for old friends. A woman I've known and loved for years (and at times hated) is visiting from afar. The familiarity, the comfort, the distance and the closeness all at once are worth celebrating. When she arrived it felt like we were just picking up from the other day's conversation, but I haven't seen her since before Elissa was born. The fact that she's well and happy and loving life just adds to the joy. And now I need to stop before the sentimentality causes someone to lose their lunch.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vale Frank Fenner

Frank Fenner has died aged 95. Who, you may ask, was Frank Fenner? Among other things, he worked on, and announced the eradication of small pox. Immunisation has changed our world, and the eradication of small pox is one of its great achievements. In honour of a great scientist, I want to take my place on the soapbox for a moment to bang on about immunisation.

It's a process that comes with some price - there is a small risk of side effects for healthy kids (and adults), but it's offsetting some much, much greater risks. Most of the time, we just don't see evidence of those risks because the viruses are held at bay by mass vaccination. Every now and then we get a glimpse, though. I got one when I got chicken pox because I didn't know I could be vaccinated. It's not one of science's great vaccines, lots of people who've been vaccinated still get it, but they get it in a much milder form. I'd have taken that option if I'd known about it.

Also, last time Ben had a throat infection they couldn't quite place, they asked if he'd been vaccinated, and were relieved to be able to rule out epiglottitis (which is most commonly caused by HiB) because it's life threatening.

These are examples of the "what's in it for me" rationale of vaccination, but I think the social arguments are at least as compelling. The risks to my healthy kids were small, but some kids can't be vaccinated for various reasons, and of course there is a time when they're too small yet. Vaccinating my kids (and myself) protects those people. The more people who choose not to vaccinate for other than medical reasons, the more carriers for these viruses and the greater the risk to those who have no choice about vaccination. Small pox is gone, but it's the only one so far.

So I'm asking you to pause and remember what life was like before people like Frank Fenner brought so many viruses under control - when many children died of whooping cough, polio, diphtheria, measles and a whole host of others. I'm also asking you to add an immunisation check to your major health checks as an adult - you know those 100,000km checkups you're supposed to go for every 5 or 10 years? Top up your whooping cough, rubella and so on, if not for yourself, for the more vulnerable around you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday

Elissa's birthday party finally got a start today, after pox-related delays. There were 10 kids here, doing what preschool kids do. We played pass the parcel, there were cries of "she's not letting me play with her" and we all chugged towards the inevitable cake.

As you can see, this year's request was the ladybird cake.

The candles were duly lit.

And Elissa met her cake.

There was the usual singing (goddammit I wish I could sing Happy Birthday, I sing badly at the best of times, but I sing Happy Birthday horrifically), and then comes the blowing out of the candles.

Elissa huffed

And she puffed

And she blew those candles out (with a great deal of assistance from most of the gathered guests).

And then, of course, we ritually sacrificed the ladybird.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Today - today I'm struggling for gratitude. It's not that nobody's done anything lovely - my sister has taken the boys for a sleep over, to their absolute delight. A friend came over with able bodied boys who helped Crash clean up the yard for Elissa's party (for cash monies, which is only reasonable). My mother has offered assistance for tomorrow. It's just that I'm feeling a bit beaten down by everything that must be done, now and always. I really am grateful for everything that everyone does, life would really suck without them.

Friday, November 19, 2010

This week in meltdowns

You're never quite as aware of the swirling vortex of confusion that is parenting as when faced with the sudden, unexpected meltdown.

This week Charlie had a massive meltdown which turned out to be about going to school next year. In between massive sobs and hysterical crying, it became apparent that he thinks he's going to hate school because Ben hates it. Fair reasoning on Charlie's part, but for the fact that Ben really rather likes school. This is a child who has NEVER chosen to stay home when given a choice. When confronted with this damning evidence, both Ben and Charlie had to reluctantly concede that it was quite likely that Ben does in fact like school. Conversations with Ben about how talking only about the bad stuff might be cool amongst his friends, but is not cool at home ensued. Poor Charlie, it must look pretty daunting when all he's heard from his older brother is negative messages for years.

A perfect reminder that all the things you carefully consider, the talks you rehearse and consider from all angles, slip right past your kids, and it's the casual, throwaway stuff that no-one gives a second thought about that are life changing and earth shattering.

Ben had a massive meltdown this afternoon when I asked him to do invitations for his birthday party. He's only inviting 3 kids, I really didn't think this represented a major task, and he was claiming boredom. I think it all stemmed from angst about not being able to make precisely the right invitation for each child. I suspect I may understand that kind of perfectionist paralysis all too well, so we'll be working on the merits of half arsed efforts tomorrow.

Finally, as befitting a 3 year old, Elissa had the most over-acted, most ridiculous meltdown of the week this evening. She completely dropped her bundle and sobbed and sobbed because 2 kids from her day care (who will be coming to her birthday party on Sunday) are "going to big school without me". They're going to the same school as Charlie, so they're hardly disappearing out of her life. More importantly, while she clearly likes these kids, it's also clear that they are not her best friends. Possibly because they're two years older than her. And to close the meltdown loop, she then proceeded to sob even more ferociously because she's unjustly excluded from going to school next year.

At least her meltdown was easier to sooth. I spoke in a silly voice, she used my face as plasticine and farted on me. After which she was laughing so hard, she'd utterly forgotten the injustices of the world.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tonight I'm grateful for crickets. I love the sound of crickets through the open windows. I also loved the look on Charlie's face as he realised I may not have been entirely truthful when I answered his question by explaining the crickets were making that sound just to tell him it's time to go to bed. He has a pretty good appreciation for smart arsery.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Somebody thinks I'm acceptable

I got accepted! Somebody thinks I'm acceptable! Granted, they don't know me from a bar of soap, and I'm only acceptable in an academic sense, but it's nice to feel wanted all the same.

Two weeks after applying for a Dip Ed Bachelor of Teaching (in high school science), I got a letter of offer. I can't actually accept the offer, because UTS's website isn't ready yet, but you can't have everything. The strangest thing about this is that people keep asking me if I'm going to be a teacher. It kind of seems like an existential question, will my being be changed by learning about pedagogy? I doubt it.

Even on a practical level, I don't know what I'm going to do with this qualification. It won't be a career, that's certain. I'm done with careers, I only want jobs now. Given that, I don't know whether I want to teach full time or just be a casual teacher. I think both have merits, both from a teaching and financial view point. What this will give me more than anything is a flexibility I've never had before. Every job I've ever had has been firmly anchored to capital cities, mostly no smaller than Sydney. I've resisted moving overseas because I'm a sedentary creature - I put down roots and I don't much like pulling them up. This has limited both our careers, but it's allowed us to start to feel like part of a community, and we have friends that mean so much more than a directorship.

I'm also a little nervous about learning about teaching. I've always taught - tutoring, training staff, teaching my own kids. I'm worried that I'm either going to discover that I'm doing it wrong, or (more likely given my disposition) discover that I don't believe a word of what they're telling me. I hoping that I'm going to discover some perspectives I hadn't previously considered and also some names for things I already knew.

And then of course, there is the minor matter that I still have a business that I'm part owner of that needs running, growing and supporting. I don't want to be doing this forever, but we have every intention of continuing to build this business, so I seem to trying to split myself in two.

One day I might know what I want to be when I grow up.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Band camp looms

I took Ben to the band information meeting tonight. He was not entirely convinced about committing to the band, and then they mentioned band camp and it was a lay down misere. He had no idea what instrument he wanted to play, but dammit he was going to pick one and go to that band camp.

He still hasn't decided on his instrument, and he won't necessarily get his first choice anyway, but it seems we're about to embark on noisy instrument learning. And he'll be going to band camp next year. I don't think he'll be nervous about staying overnight.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Equality means equality, not almost the same.

Our elected officials are debating marriage equality. I'm not watching it. There is nothing to debate. We either continue discrimination or we grow up. Who someone else marries cannot begin to have an impact on my life or anyone else's and there in no justification for a government having opinions on it.

I simply cannot get my head around a person who thinks their own marriage will be diminished by someone else getting married. Is their union that fragile?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Some gratitude and a brief review

We failed restaurant booking 101 on our trip to Melbourne, so we picked a random Japanese place - Shoya.

Overall, I was pretty impressed. The food was tasty and reasonable value. We had sashimi, teriyaki chicken, a salmon dish with roe, and a pork dish. That wasn't quite enough, so we ordered another round of the sashimi and some edamame. The sashimi was really good, and each of the dishes was interesting, the salmon was cooked to perfection and the pork was very tasty. We were all well satisfied by the end, and had also had our fill of house sake (which was ok, not fabulous, but serviceable) and Asahi. At $80 a head, I was happy enough.

I have two quibbles. The dishes all came in large pieces, not at all convenient to share. The sashimi dish came with 3 pieces of each type, which was very annoying for 4 people. Secondly, the wine prices were absurd. The sake prices started around $30 for a 300ml bottle and went well over $150. Sake just isn't that expensive - or more accurately, there is plenty of quite good sake that isn't that expensive. A quick look at the local wine prices showed some equally over-priced wines, although oddly there were a few that were more reasonable.

I'm not entirely sure I'd be prepared to spend the much bigger dollars on their degustation menu. I'd definitely want to hear some reviews that said the food was substantially better than the standard dinner menu to justify the >$100 pp (excluding drinks) price tag.

Also, it's gratitude deja vu today, because we managed to get back to Sydney on a Qantas plane without an engine shutting down - despite another flight turning back because of engine troubles today. So I remain grateful that we managed to dodge failing engines.

I can't finish a post without saying a huge thank you to my mother, David, Sophie and Nerida for making this weekend possible. My family are amazing beings, and I'm always grateful for them. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Raindrops keep falling on my ... hat!

This weekend Crash and I are in Melbourne. I've finally cashed in my Christmas present from last year for a weekend away with the babysitting organised for me!

Sydney-siders give Melbourne a lot of stick for the weather here, and this weekend it's lived up to it's dodgy reputation. Freezing cold and raining after a hot, humid day yesterday. It's rather limited our options, but it also inspired me to buy this hat, rather than an umbrella.

I managed some other shopping too. Mostly at Target, as ridiculous as that seems. The store here has twice as much stuff as any of my local ones, and I've bought 3 dresses (one of which is suitable for work, which is a constant problem for me), 3 tops and a little cardigan.

This afternoon, Samantha from The Discourse mentioned that Matchbox had a special on a device to turn apples into slinkies. Once I determined what the proverbial a "Matchbox" was, I found one at Spencer St and jumped on a tram. We now have said device, as well as some cheater chopsticks for the kids.

Sketchers are in the same complex, and they had pink sparkly shoes for $39. No human being can resist cheap, immensely comfortable pink sparkly shoes, so here they are on my feet.

Crash hasn't completely missed out, he got some jeans and a shirt, which is about as much shopping as he can manage in one go. 

We utterly failed to book any of the restaurants people recommended - we needed a month's notice for most of them. So tonight we're going to a restaurant which we found using the highly selective method of Googling it. You can expect a review of Shoya soon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Today I'm grateful for aeroplane engines that don't explode. We flew Qantas to Melbourne, and it was hard not to be thinking about the mess that A380 was in when it landed after it's engine exploded. I'm also very grateful indeed that such a huge problem was found without 400-odd people dying.

And now I'm grateful to be going out for a late dinner in a great city. Catch you tomorrow.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The problem with evidence based medicine

I don't have a lot of patience for woo at the best of times, and I have almost none for woo when it comes to treating people with real illnesses. The only patience I have for it is that placebo can be a Good Thing, and if woo doesn't cost too much, does no harm and induces a nice, effective placebo, I'm down with that. However, it often costs lots, is potentially harmful, and placebo may not be enough to cure any given ill. It's at it's absolute worst when it stops people also seeking evidence based medicine.

However, one of the reasons woo gets a look-in is that people have a gut feeling that evidence based medicine isn't always right. Most people know that we have very individual responses to various medicines, they know that very often their own symptoms don't match the text book, or are not even close. So the woo that offers individually tailored "treatments" look attractive.

There's been more than one occasion lately where I've found myself arguing with prevailing medical wisdom, based entirely on anecdotal evidence. Anecdata does not a theory make. However, basic trial and error about what triggers which, and then which relieves what is also empirical evidence. It can't be entirely ignored because it isn't conducted by a person in a white coat. It certainly says nothing about the way the same things might operate in the next person, but if it's in direct conflict with what conventional, evidenced based medicine is telling us, something's got to give.

For example, both gout and diabetes have come up a few times in my meanderings recently. I have neither, so I'm merely collecting anecdata here, and comparing it with the received wisdom of evidence based medicine. In both examples, people who have monitored their own health for a length of time have found wildly different things exacerbate or improve their condition from each other, and from what the doctors have told them.

There is nothing surprising in this. Evidence based medicine is based on statistical inferences from samples. The results are averaged across participants. Evidence based medicine is an excellent approximation of what happens to the Average Person, and Average Person doesn't exist. The trouble is, nowhere near enough doctors and other health professionals really understand this. They have a list of foods that cause gout in Average Person, but the people I know that have it have entirely different triggers from each other and from that list. The list isn't wrong, it's just that it's the most common triggers, averaged across all the people the studies have been conducted on. That's fine, as long as the doctor understands that, and presents it as such - as a starting point for your own trial and error to find out what your problem foods are. Same story with diabetes and blood sugar levels.

I'd like to see medicine start to engage more fully in the study of difference. To follow up the studies describing the average symptoms/responses/profiles with careful analysis of the differences between subgroups and even individuals. I'd also like to see it engage patients more fully in the understanding of their own bodies. It's not that no-one does it now (or I wouldn't have my anecdata), it's just that it's not mainstream for patients, and it's barely even tolerated by the medical profession, nevermind encouraged.  

I will back existing evidence based medicine over woo any day, but it's important to remember how it's done, what it's really telling us, and that at the end of the day, as Brian said, "You're all individuals!".

(As a footnote, this is a description of evidence based medicine as it should be. I'm not even beginning to address deliberate misrepresentations of data for the purposes of profit and/or power - that's a rant in and of itself.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's gardenia season

My first gardenia opened its petals today. I adore the smell of gardenias. Like jacarandas tell me it's exam time, gardenias tell me it's Christmas. Granted it's not exactly the silly season yet, but I've started my shopping in earnest, as well as my planning. There's nothing like an adorable perfume to make planning pleasant.

What are the early markers for Christmas for you?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Today I'm grateful for the amazing friendships I've gained from work. Tonight I had dinner with one of the guys I employed many moons ago. Now he's a good friend, and he's also a regular provider of his own expertise to my professional life. It's been pretty cool watching both our lives get better and better, both professionally and personally. This is what life's all about.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Today I'm grateful for access to fabulous food and wine to celebrate our 7th anniversary. Pomegranates, dates and sparkling shiraz.

Decadence on a $10 coffee table.

30th Down Under Feminists Carnival

This months Down Under Feminists Carnival is up at Bri's Fat Lot of Good. It's a mammoth edition, should keep you busy reading for a while.

It's always a good read, so go check it out.

Also, don't forget the fab little bookmarklet that Mary made that makes it easier to submit posts as you're reading them.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Productive Sunday

I seem to have had anything but a day of rest today. It was mostly boring, uninspiring housework - four loads of washing, cleaning the front room and cooking an awesome lamb shank dinner. Then there were the domino incidents. I went to vacuum the kids' rooms and discovered a distinct lack of suction. At about the same time I realised I couldn't recall the last time I cleaned the "clean at least every six months" filter. (My memory's not that bad, this probably implies a period of much greater than a year.) Cleaning the filter then requires drying the filter, which took more than the rest of the day. The vacuum cleaner is still in the middle of the hallway.

Then I wandered past a calendar (on one of my many trips to the laundry) and realised it needed to be turned over to November. Then I realised that the dog needs heartworm and flea control. Then I realised that he really needed a bath before either of those things. Then I was up to my armpits in wet dog. Wet, growly dog. Bailey has no truck with baths.

It wasn't all misery though. I managed to pot up a dwarf Tahitian lime and some pretty colour to go around it. This is the first of five pots I'm planning to fill with condemned beautiful plants. You can see the incredibly attractive wall behind it, which I am attempting to conceal with these pots.

Now I need the ground to be slightly less sodden to plant my two passionfruits and my mandarin tree in a garden.

And of course, I also managed several cups of tea and a fair bit of tweeting, so it was definitely not a wasted day.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

What I really want to do today is whinge - the weather is farcical, who stole November and replaced it with August? But I'm aiming for some positivity here, so I'm going with gratitude anyway. I'm grateful for the generations of parenting that went before me. The people who've battled with the wisdom of the day, and tried to change it. I'm grateful for the parents of the 70s who were told that physical punishment was unacceptable, but had not yet been handed an alternative. I'm grateful for all the honest parents out there who have Bad Days and tell us all about it. Because I was channeling every single one of those magnificent people tonight when I was trying to cajole my three into finding their bedroom floors. They went to bed, only slightly after bed time, with clean floors and a promise of a visit from the vacuum cleaner tomorrow. Many thousands of years' of evolution have led to the dusty, but debris free floors of my children's bedrooms, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Happy Birthday Elissa

3 years and one night ago I decided I'd been pregnant quite long enough and Initiated Proceedings by way of clary sage oil and expressing milk. About 5am-ish Elissa started the whole new experience of breathing and I ended the whole horrible experience of pregnancy.

So here we are, with a stubborn, witty, articulate, did I mention stubborn? 3 year old. She's something special, no doubt about it*. She took it in her stride that her party had to be moved back 2 weeks due to the pox invasion. And then, from the moment Crash picked her up from day care she asked "Where's my presents" approximately every 15 seconds until the presents were delivered. She told me she loved me and thanked me for her presents, and then screeched at her brother for touching her car.

She's sweet and vicious and funny and malicious and stubborn and stubborn and stubborn. She's a 3 year old, and I'm very grateful to have her.

Happy Birthday Elissa!

*And yes, I fully acknowledge that every parent says that, and they're all correct.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Today I'm grateful for my gorgeous belly dance teacher, who makes me feel fabulous no matter how badly I suck. I'm also surprisingly grateful to have the chance to dance without mirrors for a couple of weeks. Having to feel the dance instead of see it is fabulous.

What does the path to equality look like?

I went back to belly dancing tonight after all my tedious illness, and among the shimmying and chasseing and belly popping, we watched some YouTube clips of Turkish belly dancers and compared them with Egyptian dancers. There is a huge difference. If you're not familiar with belly dancing, you may not be aware that it is a family of dance rather than a single style, and the variations can be quite dramatic. I've always leaned towards the very traditional Egyptian or the more modern folkloric style - both very earthy and strong. There are also much more flamboyant styles, sexier styles, cabaret styles, balletic styles and so on. My bias has meant that I've watched a lot of Egyptian dancers and not so many others.

Here's Didem, a favourite dancer in Turkey now.

And here's Dina, Egypt's darling at the moment.
Something struck me, watching them. These two are reasonably representative of their countries' styles. Didem is young, very thin, and is contracted exclusively to the TV show she's on in this clip. Her predecessor on the show was apparently shot in the leg when she tried to leave her contract (this has all the researched authority of my belly dance teacher, but even the fact that such a rumour is believed by people says something). Dina is older, and looks very thoroughly in control at all times. She makes no grand entrances, just wanders on to stage and starts dancing when she feels like it. Dina commands respect while Didem commands attention.

And my point was? Egypt is a country where social roles remain quite rigid, both in terms of gender and class. However, the dancers from Egypt are respected for their talent, are regarded as improving with age and are not noticeably objectified. These women, at least the successful ones, are self confident, and seem to own the stage.

Turkey is, by comparison, much more Westernised, and with that, it seems the dancers are much more objectified. There is more freedom for woman to step outside gender and class roles, but at least through the lens of belly dance, they have more obligation to meet beauty standards and play passive sex kitten.

There is more than one path to equality. Rigid gender roles don't necessarily mean an imbalance in respect, although they might. In cultures where women are respected, (like Egyptian dancers) I can understand why they may not want to give that up to come to the place I, as a Westerner am at, where youth, slenderness and big boobs are the main measure of a woman, even if I can choose more ways to live my life. I don't know what the path from such a culture to equality looks like, because I don't live it, but I know they have no obligation to follow a Western lead.

If I was a dancer, I know I'd rather be an Egyptian one than a Turkish one. However, I'm not a dancer and I've worked all my life in male dominated areas, so Turkey may be a better choice for me. And that, finally, is my point. Any interim point along the way will be better for some and worse for others. There's nothing to be gained by judging the other path while standing in the middle of one's own.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Today I'm grateful for a burst of energy that came from nowhere and let me get through paid work and housework and even some Christmas preparation. Now to try to keep the roll going!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Today I'm grateful for the gatherings in the park after school. It's great to chat about nothing much at all for a while, or to solve the problems of the world. It's also pretty cool that I can pretty much ignore the kids for the whole time, knowing that they behave themselves pretty well, and look after/police each other. It's not uncommon for the kids to be the ones who decide it's time to go home.

Should we stay or should we go?

I've been a staunch fence-sitter when it comes to the war in Afghanistan. I can sympathise with the argument that we shouldn't have gone in there in the first place, but now we're there, we can't just leave the place a first class disaster. However, if we're looking at how we got to where we are, we have to consider that the US shouldn't have armed the Taliban in the first place. And then we'd need to consider that the USSR shouldn't have invaded it in the first place, and then we'd need to consider the fallout from WWII, so I'm not terribly sure that arguments that have any portion based in history are very helpful.

I also sympathise with the argument that the Taliban are never going to stop fighting while foreign troops are in their country. Can't say I entirely blame them - and more importantly, once they've used that argument to justify the fighting to themselves, they've painted themselves into a corner. Only a withdrawal can offer a way out.

So I've been listening to and mulling over the various arguments put by the various people and come to an Opinion. This is an opinion on what Australia's position should be, since that's what our Parliament recently debated. I think we should state loudly and clearly that we will only continue to support this war as long as genuine negotiations are undertaken (continued?) with the Taliban.

I have a few reasons for this. We will be fighting forever (and therefore killing civilians forever) if some negotiated agreement can't be reached. The Karzai Government is hardly a shining beacon of democratic light, it's hard to see how they are the Good Guys and the Taliban are the Bad Guys. The Taliban, as far I as I can make out from the reports I've seen and read, are primarily war lords, and use religion as a method of wielding power. I (and other commentators) strongly suspect that they would be open to liberalising their stance on Sharia law and other aspects of conservative Islam in exchange for other forms of international political power. They want a seat at the table with the Big Boys much more than they want to oppress the people of Afghanistan. In the end, we turned Afghanistan into a war zone, and our primary responsibility is to bring it back out of war, and I simply don't believe that the Taliban can be wiped out to the point that the war stops by that means and it seems incredibly unlikely that the Taliban will surrender. As a result, the only possible outcome is a negotiated power sharing arrangement. We should be pushing for that as soon as possible. Any further delay just means more people die.

Under those conditions, I'd say it's our duty to stay there until stability is achieved. If the foreign alliance is not moving towards stability, then I think we should withdraw our support and at least not contribute to making the situation any worse.

I should say that it seems that some movement has been made in the direction of negotiation, and I support that. I simply think that Australia should make its position clear that this is what we support, and not open ended warfare in someone else's country.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Today I'm grateful for my husband. He's a wonderful man, and great dad. The latter doesn't come too easily to him - he was rather short on role models growing up, but he's committed to not repeating the mistakes of the past, and doing a great job. He's also marking another year of breathing today, and I'm grateful that he chose ribs for his birthday dinner. Mmmmm... ribs......


I'm gonna do it - I'm gonna do NaBloPoMo again this year. I wish it wasn't in November, but I'm up for a month of gratitude posting since it reminds about the Good Stuff that goes on rather than focussing on the crap.

Hopefully there'll be some other content too - particularly after I get to put up the post that says "Today I'm grateful that everyone in the house is disease free."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Remembering the lost

Cross-posted at HaT

Apparently October is the month for remembering those bubs that we lose before they get to grow up, or before they draw breath, or even before they're big enough for us to hold that one time. I don't do Facebook chain statuses, they annoy me, even if it's a sentiment I can relate to.

Instead, I'm just going to say again what I've said lots of times before - we need to construct the rituals and the social rules for talking about and publicly recognising miscarriage, still birth and infant death. I had two miscarriages, both quite early. The second was very early indeed. It's fair to say I grieved more for myself than the "baby", in my mind that embryo had not moved very far along the journey to personhood. However, I did still grieve, there was loss, and it was hard to talk to people about it at the time, because no-one has a framework, or a set of stock responses. They just look awkward and uncomfortable and it doesn't help.

Now I can talk about it with less emotion, and I try to take every opportunity to do so. I've come across a lot of people (especially men, for some reason) who are very relieved to find someone who will talk about it. Someone who they can share the pain, or sometimes the guilt over feeling not so much pain, or whatever was their experience. There's no rules about how you have to feel, but we need some rules about how to discuss it. Number one would be to listen to what the person is telling you, and don't guess how they are feeling. You'll never know whether this is deeply devastating or sad, but ok. Let them tell you. Other than, I don't know - feel free to offer suggestions in the comments.

My experience is only with miscarriage. Still birth and infant death are, in general, much harder. Those little ones have travelled much further down the road to personhood (and in the case of infant death, have legally achieved it) and it hurts more to lose them.

So I'm taking the time to remember the people that nobody got to really meet. To honour the tears that were shed for them, and to encourage everyone to help end the silence. It's getting better, but it could be better still.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Elissa categorises

Elissa explained to me today one of nature's binaries.

Things without sharp teeth:


Things with sharp teeth:



She also decided to tell me tales of hilarity:

"The other day, Daddy forgot to put our seat belts on. That was so silly. We said 'What the hell are you doing?'"


I love when my children remind me what terrible parents we are.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Handy pointers for GPs

It's unreasonable to assume that GPs are being obnoxious on purpose, so in the interest of fairness, here are some handy hints for GPs not to be arseholes.
  • If you ask a question, listen to the answer. Asking the same question four times doesn't inspire confidence.
  • If you send the patient for tests, book the tests you've been told you need to book.
  • Don't refer to a patient's "private parts", it makes you sound like a nervous school kid.
  • Not all diseases have read the text book, if the patient reports symptoms that don't match your memory of said text book, don't correct the patient, they probably didn't have the virus (or whatever) conspire to confound you.
  • If you're going to write down the results of observations, it's a good idea to actually make them (see next point).
  • If you are going to bother to make some observations, try doing it long enough to actually observe something.
  • NEVER tell a patient who has come to you because they're in pain, that they are not, in fact, in pain.
  • If you tell a patient they need a script, write out the script, without needing to be prompted by the patient. 
  • Don't pretend you're a super hero, lines like "Never fear, Dr XXXXX is here" aren't even endearing when you are a good doctor.
  • Finally, if the patient has been crying the entire time they've been in your office, don't send them on their way with a cheery "Have a wonderful day!" - it makes you look like an arsehole.
This handy list brought to you by a single visit to a single doctor. He was that good.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Things I'd like to see - Traditional Nation Signs

I've got a pretty reasonable handle on the towns and rivers and other geographic features of the bits of the east coast of Australia that I've travelled around. If someone mentions a town, I've probably got at least a vague idea of where it is. This is almost exclusively because as I've driven around, I've seen signs that tell me which town I'm driving through, or could turn left to reach, which river I'm crossing, and which mountains are around abouts. It's knowledge by osmosis.

On the other hand, I can tell you two fifths of bugger all about the lands of the peoples who were here before the Poms decided to send their criminals over here. I decided that this was a distinct gap in my knowledge, and went looking for instructive materials. One of the first things I found was this map. I haven't shown it here, because I think that might be breaching copyright, but you can look at it at that site (or download the pdf here for detail). The first thing that will hit you is that it's a mug's game to try to memorise who lived where, or even all the names of the nations - just like no-one thinks anyone is going to memorise all the towns and rivers in the country.

So want I want to see is signs on major highways and arterial roads, the same places that have signs for towns and other landmarks, letting me know which traditional territory I'm in now. So that same osmosis can work for me. So that we can all become familiar with the local peoples.

You may be wondering why I care about what may seem to be just historical lines on a map. It's because it isn't about where people lived, it's about who people are. When we refer to those people who were here before, we use white man's words to describe them - Indigenous, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islanders. We do it because we don't actually know who they are. Most people (myself included) don't even really understand the structure of their identities, much less know the names of them. I know that they identify loosely with large groups, such as Koori and Murri, but I can't even rattle off these broad identities (beyond these two) without looking it up, never mind more specific national identities. Fixing this is on my to-do list, but me learning about it isn't going to change much. I want to see this information floating out there, everywhere, so that if a person takes the time to tell me (or anyone else) who they are, the names they use won't fly away the way unfamiliar terms tend to do. They'll mean something, they'll ring a bell.

I'm also not looking for some grand gesture of massive funding to go out and put a bazillion signs all over the place. Just a commitment to make it happen over time. To start somewhere and keep going until the sign telling me that this is Tharawal land is as familiar as the one telling my I'm driving down Mt Ousley. This isn't history, this is who people are, here and now, and it's shameful that none of know the first thing about them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hard or soft wired?

Gender is a messy bloody business. People are really, really invested in the notion that gender differences are hard wired in the brain. I suppose it has a lot to do with identity. Most people consider their gender as a pretty significant portion of their identity. I don't think too many people feel terribly comfortable with the notion that something so central to their being is largely conditional on what the current social dogma says about gender roles.

I know I tend to buy into selective reinforcement type thinking. I'm pretty good at multi-tasking, because I'm female. I'm pretty good at science & maths because I happen to be. I'm tend to analyse relationships and engage in a lot of self reflection because I'm a woman. I tend to drink and swear too much when I go out because.... some other reason. My traits that are generally associated with "female" I attribute to my gender, whilst my traits that are traditionally "male" are for some other reason.

People get very worked up if you suggest that it might not be true that the having or not having of a Y chromosome in and of itself actually affects much about our personalities, our patterns of thought and our entertainment preferences. On the other hand, some other people get equally worked up if you suggest that some of these things might, in fact, have some hard wired component. Very few people seem to take the position that I feel is closest to the truth: that we have absolutely no idea how much, if any, of our gender identity is hard wired.

I think we should proceed on the basis that we have no idea. What would such a strategy involve? It would be pretty straightforward - you'd offer kids toys of all kinds, but not insist that they play with toys of all kinds. If the girl likes "girl" toys, so be it. If the boy likes girl toys, equally cool. If the kid likes a little from column A and a little from column B, also fine. We don't need to bring our kids up gender neutral, we need to bring them up gender accepting.

This is not much of a shift. My kids play with maybe 25% of the toys they have. I have a hard time guessing which things they'll like. So just ignoring gender roles in toy choice is unlikely to make much difference in the hit rate.

We need to proceed on the assumption that we have no idea how strong or weak any given child's capacity for empathy is, and to encourage and assist all of them equally to develop it. We should assume that any given child's language will develop somewhere between 1 and 4 years of age, and not set expectations based on presence or absence of a penis.

However, as they develop empathy, language, a focussed or more multi-tasking approach, a love of sequins or a passion for denim, we should stop comparing this to some arbitrary model of What Boys Do and What Girls Do. We know it's arbitrary, because these models are vastly different across cultures and across time. Pink was a boy's colour in the Western world only a couple of centuries ago. The idea of it being a girl's colour is either non-existent or very recent in most Asian cultures.

What would happen? I don't know. We might find that there are "girl brains" and "boy brains" but that they may not map terribly clearly with Y chromosomes. I think what we would actually find is a spectrum, with most people having attributes traditionally ascribed to both genders. But I really don't know what shape the distribution would be. It might be pretty flat, or it might turn out to have peaks in certain clusters of traits. So what would people call themselves? What would this mean for people who identify as trans gender? I also don't really know. I'd like to think that the idea of gender might become more subtle - not a great big stamp on your forehead that designates you B or G. It might recognise that some people are genuinely neither, or both, and see that as no big deal.

What do we have to lose? My collection of traits still belong to me, regardless of how they came about. I'm still free to identify as female. I might start thinking that perhaps I'm good at multi-tasking because I get bored easily, and so doing more than one thing at a time works for me, rather than because I fail to possess a Y chromosome. I might also expect my sons to be as self-reflective as my daughter, but equally accept that one may be more so than another.

Most shockingly of all, people might manage to find the things they love and excel at, regardless of whether it is a thing expected of their penis-possession status. How is this bad? How does this threaten us?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Letters to Santa

It's the middle of October, the Aussie dollar is near as damnit to parity with the greenback, and it's seriously time to start thinking about Christmas.

This post was designed for my family, primarily - to write your letters to Santa in the comments section! But then I figured I may have some friends who could use some assistance in getting their letters to Santa delivered effectively, and what the hell, I'd love to know what everyone wants for Christmas! I'm opting for a huge list, that can't possibly be met, so that I'm not just providing a "buy me this" list. But if you have just one special thing you'd love to receive, put that in the comments too.

In the interests of eradicating boring gifts, write your Santa letters!

Things I'd like for Christmas, in no particular order
  • Outdoor speakers for the bathroom
  • One or two of my more beloved items of clothing copied by a dressmaker
  • Some jewelery that will go with pink-ish clothes
  • Babysitting
  • Funky & cool knitting patterns
  • Ceiling fans
  • Tablecloths that cover the whole dining room table, and preferably don't need ironing
  • Japanese dinner ware
  • Music - I may need to do some research on exactly what music I'd like.
That seems suitably ludicrously excessive. Now, what do you guys want? Family, I'm looking at you! But everyone, what's on your list this year, what would you like to receive? Or even, what do you seriously never want to unwrap again?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blogging from the bubble

I was looking forward to the school holidays. I had Plans. I knew it was going to be a bit hectic, and the boys would probably watch more movies than I'd like, but there were a few key things we were going to do that was going to make sure it was a worthwhile holiday.

But the universe would have none of it. First, Ben got chicken pox. That was ok, it was the last week of school, and he wasn't very sick. Then, just as he was getting over the pox, he got a throat infection that landed him in Emergency on the Monday of the first week. He was ok - nothing that a massive dose of steroids wouldn't fix, but it screwed up his social life no end. Then he kindly passed that throat infection on to me, which didn't quite knock me out, but definitely knocked me down.

I managed one reasonable day in which we saw friends. The kids had fun and we had a sensational sushi night. At least our holiday highlight was a thumpingly good one.

Then I started to get a little ill again, and I thought it was the tail end of the throat infection. Not so. Eventually the little red spots started to appear, then I crashed completely. Chicken pox. I was very tempted to inflict you with the full litany of symptoms, but suffice it to say that there are systemic as well as rash-related symptoms, and one should remember that the rash gets everywhere. Think on that while you see how it looked on my face.

Now think about that everywhere. Ice packs were involved, people.

And it got worse. This was two days later.

Yes, that's as painful as it looks. That stuff about pox rash being itchy? Rubbish. The spots on my back were itchy, and I barely noticed it. It was all about the pain. And it went on and on. It's still going on, 9 days since the first symptom and 7 days since I hit the bed. I'm still in bed, but definitely on the improve. Why am I telling you this? Because there is a vaccine available for adults. If you didn't have the pox as a kid, get your immunity tested, and get vaccinated if need be, because this is a special kind of hell you don't want to go through.

On a lighter note, it was Crazy Hair Day at school today, and Ben was sent off, suitably crazied.

He was pretty chuffed, despite being told he looked like a girl. He's promised me next time he won't defend this with "I've never seen a girl with 6 pony tails straight over her head", but rather "Saying I look like a girl is the same as saying 'I look like a person'". (His wording on both counts, not mine.)

And no doubt Blogger is still going to left align these photos rather than centering them as they appear here in my editor, and I'm sorry, but I don't have the energy to wrestle with it. I'll just watch the rain instead.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

And another thing....

I'm not a fan of capitalism, at least not in its current form. I have a long list of gripes, but the one that's bugging me right at the moment is the idea of "buying power".

The idea that the more money you have, and the more money you spend, the cheaper things get for you sucks in every possible way.

In the business arena, it's highly anti-competitive. Small companies trying to start up and compete with bigger companies have to pay more for exactly the same products and services. They also usually receive much poorer customer service. (If you've ever dealt with both the corporate and small business arms of a telco, you'll know exactly what I mean.)

This then flows directly on to consumers. It's ok if you live in an area where the really big companies want to be, but if you don't, you get to pay more for everything too. And surprise, surprise, the places where the big companies aren't are very highly correlated with the places people earn less.

I understand that there's a reduced cost of sale to a big company, but this doesn't even come close to accounting for the differences in pricing. For starters, it's not at all uncommon for companies to "buy business". They'll go into a large organisation and offer their product at less than cost in order to get the business, and since they still have to make enough money to stay afloat, the costs of this practice are passed on to their smaller customers.

Also, when companies get big enough not just to control the demand for their product, but also to control the upstream providers, you see these huge companies dictating their own costs at the expense of providers. I know I'm heading into dangerous territory here, but Bob Katter is right about the impact that the massive dominance of Coles and Woolworths has had on farmers. And you may have noticed that the price of fresh food hasn't dropped to us small value customers. The wholesale price of milk dropped substantially, but the retail price rose.

There are all sorts of other ways that big companies are advantaged over small ones, and the net effect is always to increase costs to consumers. I do believe in competition, but all competitions need rules and regulations, or you just get bullies. Where competition works as it should, we see prices fall and service improve (fibre telco services in cities in would be an example of this). Where competition is strangled by oligopolies or insufficiently regulated monopolies (think supermarkets for the former, and copper telco services for the latter) we see prices rise, and service levels drop.

The heavily skewed pricing structures we see in many industries are a major barrier to the type of competition that results in good outcomes for the population at large.

Unfortunately, the thing that annoys me the most about capitalism is that I don't know enough about economics to be able to present solutions or alternatives. I know that putting prices on things that are currently not valued by our system (such as environmental costs, human life costs and so on) are a start, but I simply don't know enough to envisage what the next economic step is. I know it clearly isn't anything that's gone before. What I want to see is people discussing where we go next, instead of accepting capitalism as an inevitability, and countering any criticism with "What, do you want us all to be communists?".

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prawn, mango and cashew salad

I'm blogging tonight's dinner in the hope that I might remember what I put in it, and remember what I wanted to change after eating it.

Prawn, mango & cashew salad

  • Green prawns, shelled & deveined
  • Blood orange, peeled and segmented
  • Nam doc mai mangoes, peeled, seeded and sliced
  • Lebanese cucumbers, peeled and sliced
  • Iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • Snow peas
  • Carrot sticks
  • Tomatoes, chopped into wedges
  • Half a bunch of coriander, chopped
  • Cashews
I marinated the prawns in garlic and lime & chilli infused macadamia oil. Everything else is tossed together well (to make sure the yummy bits are evenly distributed, and to coat everything in mango juice). Fry the prawns and serve on top of the salad.

I served the salad with kipfler potato oven chips, in the hope that I didn't get too many wails of horror from the children when they saw the salad.

I underdid the prawns a little, and I might ditch the tomatoes next time. If you don't have chilli sensitive kids to deal with, it would be lovely with some chilli infused oil added to it as a dressing. The cashews are gorgeous in it, and leaving out the prawns wouldn't be much of a loss - tasty veg alternative. (Which is what the kids ate, they boycotted the prawns tonight.)

The kids ate enough of it to not die of starvation, in fact, it was reasonably well received given that it was a pile of mixed up salad. (Oh, the horrors of salad mixed together making a child work to get at the bits they deign to eat!)

Monday, September 27, 2010

A person is not their job

I'm not going to comment specifically on #groggate, because I think Grog's Gamut did it perfectly well himself.

What's pissing me off is the whole notion that once you are employed, everything you say and do, 24/7 is owned by your employer. This results in a lot of brokenness. It means that companies tell their employees that they can't tell anyone (at the pub, or online) that their employer sucks. It means that people who dream up some invention can have the patent taken from them, even if they used no job specific knowledge to come up with it. It means that expressing opinions anywhere that their employer might hear/read it, on their own time, as a private citizen, can get people sacked. I think this is fundamentally wrong. Employment isn't an ownership relationship.

I understand that this is partially a consequence of our society trying to get to its collective head around new media, and whether or not saying something on Twitter is the same or different to saying it at the pub. What I don't understand is why corporations are answering the questions without consultation with the rest of us.

The other thing I don't understand is why companies all assume that the public can't differentiate between an employee and their employing organisation. Honestly, my opinion of a company is unlikely to change much based on the comments of any individual employee. There are disgruntled employees, there are employees of all political persuasions working for most organisations (except possibly The Australian), there are alcoholics, drug addicts, misogynists, volunteers, feminists, and people with all sorts of barrows to push. I'm not going to judge any company based on one employee being any of those things.

Which is not to say I'll never judge an organisation based on some of the predominant traits of a large proportion of their staff. AFL, NRL, I'm looking at you. Patterns of behaviour may indicate real issues. But that is really, really different from Joe Blogger and his opinions on the election, or someone's ill-conceived tweet. Why can't the company simply issue a "We do not endorse this opinion" statement? If it was a really bad gaffe, they could go so far as to say "We strongly disagree with/are disgusted by this opinion, but support the right of employees to have their own lives outside of work hours". Can the public really not understand that any given person is not identical with their employer?

The line between person and employee may need to be renegotiated, but I'm tired of having the new world order dictated by the likes of Telstra, The Age and The Australian.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Elissa's first pigtails

Elissa's hair is getting longer, and becoming annoying. Because I'm a terrible parent, I haven't managed to get it cut, so I bought some hair elastics instead. Today we wrangled her hair into its first pigtails. It's worth being a slack parent to get this level of cute.
Elissa's First Pigtails

And since there was a camera about, Charlie thought he'd show off the side burns he's been working on.

Charlie sports sideburns

Farewell Powderfinger

Powderfinger are among the latest to announce their disbanding and do a farewell tour. I will be utterly unsurprised when, in a few years, they announce their reunion tour, however, I was happy to go along to the farewell tour, because their last few albums have been a little dull, and I was keen to see a greatest hits show.

Jet were the support act. They sounded like Jet. It was really quite odd seeing them at the Entertainment Centre, it was all wrong.

Powderfinger are a technically brilliant band, but as @The_Ausmerican said on Twitter:
@shonias Powderfinger are so ... dry on stage! They sound like a recording!
I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, I rather like a band that sounds so tight live. The visuals kind of reflect the focus on the music.

Powderfinger's farewell tour

But they did have some pretty coloured lights.

Powderfinger's farewell tour

We were not in the best of seats, but we did have a great view of the packed house.

The crowd

They played a few songs from recent albums, which resulted in me singing "I like your old stuff better than your new stuff", but then they made me very happy:

This is one of my favourite Powderfinger songs ever. It was awesome.

Then there was the singalong bit. The compulsory Audience Participation. And Powderfinger did it right. (Unlike Jet, who chose a song nobody knew to get the audience to sing along to...)

There's no video for that, because it was very messy.

It was heaps of fun. They played stuff from all over their back catalogue, but I've always has a soft spot for Double Allergic, and so I was pretty chuffed when they played a second song from it.

I had a great night, and I'm looking forward to the reunion tour.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A single rose

Last year I planted two climbing roses. A few weeks back, I noticed one rosebud on one of them.

As you can see, we have a bit of an aphid problem. Sadly for the rose, my gardening philosophy is that if you can't fight the aphids off on your own, don't talk to me about them. Nevertheless, the bud survived.

Eventually it made it to a fully fledged rose.

And then the sun came out.

I wish I could tell you whether it has any scent, but it's about 7 feet above the ground, and I can't get anywhere near it. Hopefully, this won't be the last, and I'll be able to report what kind of scent it has.

Monday, September 20, 2010

In which I resort to text book parenting

I have mentioned a number of times that I suck at toilet training. The story of my efforts with Elissa sort of trailed off, which is probably because the toilet training itself sort of trailed off. Sadly, the accidents haven't stopped, using my preferred method of ignoring it and hoping it would fix itself.

A week or so ago, I had some brownies, so I went with some outright bribery and told Elissa she could have a brownie if she came home from day care without having wet herself. Three days in a row we had a completely dry Elissa. Then the brownies ran out.

So, I have finally dragged out the good old sticker chart.

Hand drawn sticker chart
I have 33 days worth of chart. I wonder what the odds are of anything changing by the end of that time?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fat and health

I'm still thinking about fat. The intense responses to the idea of fat acceptance are often justified in terms of health. The more I think about this, the more, intertwined reasons there are for calling bullshit on it.

Firstly, there's the science. All the research on obesity. Lots and lots of it is sponsored by the diet industry. Oddly, this doesn't seem to bother the medicos citing it. Also, more transparently, the premise of obesity research is to treat obese people as a uniform group of people. To look at obese people and compare them with not obese people. In many respects, health outcomes are worse for obese people. However, as well all know, correlation is not causation. Just as the strong correlation between the population of storks and number of babies born in Hamburg fails as evidence against babies being born via their mamas' vaginas, this correlation on its own doesn't mean obesity is the root cause of all evils.

I'm completely down with diet and lifestyle being correlated with good health - in fact I also believe that it is partially causative. (Many people know perfectly well that their ill-health has nothing whatever to do with diet and lifestyle, so it can't be more than a partial causation.) Also, because weight loss is sold as the goal for everything, and the marker of health, there is a correlation between obesity and poor diet and lifestyle. The direction of causation is not so clear though. Once you are fat, if eating healthy and exercising sensibly don't produce weight loss, why would you bother? It's clearly not working anyway, since weight is health. I can't help wondering if body fat was ignored completely by everyone, how much healthier many fat people would be. Still, here I am focussing on fat people. Just like the research. No-one seems to round up all the people with similar diet and lifestyle, irrespective of weight, and look at health outcomes. Plenty of not fat people have crappy lifestyles and crappy health outcomes, but no-one glares at them when they eat in public. So I call bullshit on fat = unhealthy.

Also, the only lifestyle that's really been looked at independent of the starting weight of the people is the Dieting lifestyle. (I use big D "Diet" to refer to weight loss regimes, rather than the stuff you eat.) That's been shown to be really bad for you - with increased risk of stroke and heart disease. It's really bad for you, because it produces yo-yo weight gain and loss, and that's definitely worse than constantly being fat or thin. So I call bullshit on being told to go on a Diet for health reasons.

Moving on to practical matters. The public shaming of fat people causes bad health. It stops fat people going to the doctor, because they know they're just going to be told that whatever is wrong with them is because they are fat. They are far less likely to have preventative health checks, because they know the doctor is going to tell them they're fat (in case they'd managed to forget this fact for a millisecond). It means that doctors treat people with less respect, and with less actual medicine, as it happens. 95% of people can't lose weight and keep it off, so doctors prescribing that as a cure-all is simply bad practice. So I call bullshit on the idea that making people feel bad about being fat will lead them to be healthier.

From the practical to the moral. Who said healthy was the be all and end all to all arguments anyway? Everyone has the right to decide what priority they want to assign to what degree of health. Apparently one is a hard working moral citizen if one gets a stress induced illness (even if the source of stress is a result of choosing high income over low stress occupations) but totally devoid of morals if one chooses to focus on other aspects of lifestyle at the expense of one's health. Sports people are allowed to destroy their joints requiring surgery and more, and are hailed as heroes. I call bullshit on lack of health being viewed as a moral failing.

Finally, I've heard more than one person point out that the upside of cancer (or other life threatening illnesses) is weight loss. I can't think of better evidence that the claim that fat hatred is all about health is utter, utter bullshit.

And when I say "fat people" as though they are other, it's because I'm an in-betweeny. I'm well and truly obese by medical definitions, but I can still sometimes buy clothes in mainstream shops. So some of the fat hatred (and all the body shame) come my way, but I realise I don't cop it as bad as lots of other people.

Also, if you want to change your diet (with a little "d") to improve your health or make other lifestyle changes because they make you feel better, that's cool. If you lose weight as a result, that's also cool. If you don't lose weight as a result, that's exactly as good as if you do. For a fabulous piece on how talking about Diets affects other people, have a read of this Spilt Milk article.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The "wrong" shape

Last Friday night, the lovely Dr Samantha Thomas invited me (and many others, including Mim) to the Bodies Abound event in Newtown. There was some visual art, and 8 spoken presentations which varied from folks reading aloud to performance. (Or something like that, not that reading aloud isn't some kind of performance...)

It was a really fabulous night that really celebrated every body shape and shared the pain of being the "wrong" shape. There were fat people, skinny people and trans people. Sadly I can't share the things that were presented that night as I don't think there are any online versions of any of it.

Instead, I've got a small selection of links to people talking about various aspects have the "wrong" shape. I hope you can find some time to read them and they make you feel better about your body, no matter what shape it is.

Lots of the people at Bodies Abound were from the Fat Studies Conference that (the also very lovely) Dr Sam Murray organised at Macquarie Uni.

Nicholosophy speaks on how it's different when you're a bloke. It's different, but that doesn't make it fun.

Definatalie has a different story again. Another perspective, which surprised and interested me.

Fat is obviously not the only way to be "wrong" shaped, you can also have the "wrong" physical gender. This is a wonderful piece from the conservative father of a transgender child.

There are some summaries of the Fat Studies Conference out there too.


I'll add any others I come across. Please, go, read, feel better. :)

Update 21/9/10 And here is another one:
Sam Murray's piece from Bodies Abound. I laughed, and it was supportive.