Saturday, December 26, 2009

A fatwa on 2009 UPDATE

Despite the title, I do want this to be a positive blog.

Wow, I remember blogging.  It seems like my last blog was posted...... far too long ago.  And far too much has happened in the time between then and now.  I've moved to a new place and am trialling shared custody (or whatever the new-fangled word is) of my children.  Having never spent more than 2 days away from my beautiful children, this is indescribably  hard.  Christmas Day was particularly emotional for me, and, truth me told, the spirit and fun of the occasion completely passed me by.  Thrown into the mix with this was a particularly nasty falling out with someone (other than my ex), and just the general sense of horror that accompanies a marriage break up unnecessarily exacerbated by falling out with people.

What has been hard for me is the realisation that there are people out there - increasingly, I am weeding these people out of my life - who feel it is their place to interfere and to comment on things that are actually not their business, but they choose to make it their business by imposing their expectations from their own similar experiences.  If I do not respond to my experience in the same way that they did, they react with anger, resentment, and take it as a personal attack that I somehow think less of them.  They then deign to suggest that I am in denial.

Despite knowing that I should let these people and their reactions just go, I am still left reeling, and in a way that sets me back considerably. I'm not for a second suggesting here that I am perfect, but I do know that if a friend is going through a traumatic experience, I will be there for them, they can confide safely in me, and I will support them through whatever decision they decide to make.  Because I know that they are special people who bring their own wonderful perspective and insight to my life and to the world, and for that I love them.  But it's a lesson that is little learned from childhood that there are just some people out there who do not subscribe to such an approach.

Having always been very dismissive of therapeutic approaches that choose to categorise people, I don't care for textbook responses to emotional trauma, and, anyway, it is no-one's place to rush me through any of this according to their expectations.  This is MY life.  If there are people out there who have issues in their life that need to be addressed, these issues need to be addressed through their own life, not mine.  Just because I am not seething resentment, hatred, and outward anger all the time does not mean that I don't feel it or I don't care.  It means that I am not the sort of person who can physically or emotionally sustain that level of negativity.  It's just not my makeup.  It also means that I have practical responsibilities in my life, like three so-far-well-adjusted preschoolers, and juggling several jobs at the same time, and living in a new home, and a child starting school soon..... I could go on and on, but I'm trying to say that my life isn't going to stop for me.  It means that, for the moment, I would prefer to focus my energy on looking forward and creating a sense of emotional and physical stability for my children, rather than run the risk of getting mired in my idealistic dreams of a past not fulfilled and retribution on those who destroyed that dream.  There is plenty of time for me to reflect on what might have been, but for the time being I find it unhelpful and pointless.

While any falling out is painful, it is also an insightful view into disdainful one-sided and disrespectful behaviour. But, I don't mean to sound so glib.  It is still a falling out with someone you thought you could trust, and this is a morale destroying moment.  In a time as deeply painful as a marriage breakup, the realisation that there are yet more people in my life who cannot be relied upon has an enormous impact, and I am left feeling stunned at the selfishness of others.  In my case, it has set me back significantly and I find I am having to rethink who my true, trustworthy friends are.  It's a painful exercise, but one that I suspect is less painful done now rather than, once again, finding out the hard way.

It is an unfortunate truth that the number of true friends that we have will reduce over the years. This is either through natural occurrence or specific events, as we realise that the person who we thought and classed as a true friend is in fact not deserving of that title.

So, 2009 has been really hard, and I for one am glad to see it go for good. Had it not been for the discovery of blogging, I hate to think just how dire I would be feeling right now.  Blogging has not only given me a much needed outlet and inlet for my otherwise unappreciated brain, it has also provided me with some timely insight into just how kind and generous people can be.  And these are people I have never met.  But I would drop everything to meet them if given half a chance. When I was feeling really down and desperate, there were bloggers out there who sent me emails or posted comments or added me as a Facebook friend; gestures that were incredibly uplifting, and served to strongly reinforce to me that there exist people who do not strive to impose their expectations on me, and who are genuinely supportive and helpful.

I has made me realise that a true friend is not necessarily someone who I have physically met. A true friend is a little more than a very good friend, and it is entirely possibly to have such a friend if only "cyberly". A true friend will support you even if it hurts their own interest (such as revealing their blogger anonymity). A true friend will understand your motives and needs and will know when not to offer any analysis or criticism (such as giving me a phone number or sending me an email, just to reassure to me that I am never alone, and just letting me say all I want to say without fear of judgment). A true friend will come forward to help without any request and be with you in need without showing it or expecting anything in return. To all the lovely bloggers and commentators out there, if I never called you, don't for one second think it was because I didn't appreciate your gesture.  I may yet use it, even if just to personally thank you for being there when I needed someone to remind me that I am actually more than something that can be scraped off a shoe and discarded just because I didn't behave in an expected way.  It's a reminder that I am worthwhile.  And for that I am so very grateful.

Perhaps, now that I have cathartically blogged about this, I should change the title. Perhaps, in fact, 2009 has been a wonderful year for me. A year where I have had to face some very painful personal situations and learn some important lessons, but where the goodness and the kindness of people has also been very apparent. While a few people have set me back considerably, there have been many more people who have made me appreciate how wonderful human nature can be. As painful as I find each day, I also find the energy to continue purely from knowing that there are people out there who are genuinely compassionate and empathetic.

It's been quite a year.

Let's hope 2010 has perhaps a bit less insight and a bit more enjoyment. And a bit more to blog about.

UPDATE: Thank you so much for your kind comments, directly to this blog, or through your own blogs, or through emails. It's a wake up call to not get mired in the actions of very few and to remember that the majority of people are kind. The loneliness and heartache of only seeing your children 50% of the time, and the sense of injustice that accompanies it, is indescribable at the moment, but I am holding on to the hope that it will get easier with time. Blogging output may increase, if only to keep the brain distracted from the lack of noise. Even though, right now, all topics that would ordinarily warrant an opinion feel unimportant.

But, you've given me the motivation to get thinking again. Thank you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The need to breastfeed some scientists

William Feldman, Mark E Feldman, Departments of Paediatrics, Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto; and Scarborough Grace Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Temboury MC, Otero A, Polanco I, Arribas E. Influence of breastfeeding on the infant's intellectual development. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1994; 18: 32-36.
C du V, FloreyV, Leech AM, Blackhall A. Infant feeding and mental and motor development at 18 months of age in first born singletons. Int J Epidemiol 1995; 24: S21-S26.
Morrow-Tlucak M, Haude RH, Ernhart CB. Breast feeding and cognitive development in the first 2 years of life. Soc Sci Med 1988;

These are the intelligent people who came up with the idea that "intelligent mothers have intelligent babies, whether or not they breastfeed. However, intelligent mothers usually breastfeed."

Chicken or egg?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Defending the oppressed narrow-gauge engines and rolling stock carriages

Thomas the Tank Engine started out as bedtime stories by a loving father for his son. With encouragement from the Lady of the House (am I allowed to call her a "Lady"?), the stories were written down and published in beautifully illustrated little books, well before the TV series. The original children's books accurately describe post world war British railway history, and include accounts of real incidents and events.

In an effort to sensibly use Australian taxpayers dollars, because, clearly, there was too much tax money sloshing around, Professor Shauna Wilton was funded to conduct a study. Not a study into anything sensible, you understand. That would be boring. Rather, this study has helpfully asserted that Thomas the Tank Engine demeans women. Furthermore, she has warned that "such negative messages about society subconsciously gleaned from the show may drive its young fans off the rails in later life."

And I thought they were just trains.

Research has also shown that the pollution generated by Thomas the Tank Engine has been a minor contributor to the depletion of the ozone layer and the environmental effects on the earth, compared to the pollution generated by Professor Wilton.

In reality, what Professor Wilton’s research proves (aside from the obvious proof that she wastes taxpayers money on idle rubbish) is that she has not actually watched any Thomas the Tank Engine episode or read any of the books. The female characters in Thomas are plentiful and hardworking, are no different to the other engines, and are certainly not subservient to any of the males. I can rapidly list Annie, Clarabell, Henrietta, Daisy, Mavis, Caroline, Emily, Molly, Rosie, Flora, Pip and Emma, Catherine, Isabel, Victoria, Agnes, Ruth, Jemima, Lucy, Beatrice, Cora, Ada, Jane, Gertrude, Lady, Lady Hatt, Alicia Botti, The Refreshment Lady, and Mrs Kindley. Professor Wilton’s study seems to neglect the narrow-gauge engines and rolling stock.

Unless I am missing the point that, in real life, broad-gauge engines actually do demean narrow-gauge engines and rolling stock.

Thomas the Tank Engine can now take his place with Noddy and Big Ears and their obvious gay tendencies, and that whore Sleeping Beauty, who possibly had an adulterous relationship with Tiger Woods.

I am now deeply concerned that my sons will develop patriarchal, sexist, he-man, wymyn-hating attitudes and tendencies.

On the other hand, I have just finished a (non-taxpayer-funded, so it must be useful) study on Barney, the big, purple dinosaur. Through my extensive research, I have discovered that the Barney stories only represent a minority of us in the socio-ideological stakes. This is evident by the lack of purple dinosaurs in the community, and is blatantly unfair to the all us non-purple humans. Barney should be forced to conform to our way of life, in the same way Professor Wilton expects children’s shows to fit into her own small world view.

God gave up looking for a parking space

What a bizarre article in this morning's copycat Herald Dominion Post about an atheist advertising campaign about "no-god" billboards on the side of buses.

So what?  But, aside from that, what I find most bizarre about this is that there have apparently been multitudes of complaints to advertising standards boards by, obviously, those who have religious sensitivities and are unable to turn away when they see advertising on the side of a bus.  I am astounded that there are people out there who pay attention to advertising on the side of buses, but, instead of complaining (and thereby draw more publicity to that which they find so offensive), I generously offer these sensitive religious groups some advertising campaigns they can use for free.  That must lead to good karma, surely?

Bus will come.

I don't know if bus will come.

Bus won't come because you don't work hard enough.

If the bus comes, it really isn't a bus.

7th Day Adventist
No buses on Saturdays.

What is the sound of of a bus coming?

There is nothing like a good bus coming.

This bus has been here before.

The bus will come, Inshallah.

Let the bus take me rather than someone else.

The bus will come because you deserve it.

Hare Krishna
The bus will come, rama rama.

Why does the bus not coming always happen to us?

Let's smoke on this bus.

Jehovah's witness
Knock knock, bus driver, open the door.

TV Evangelism
Send more buses to God's own bus terminal at 90-1234-005679-123, and smile, smile, smile with buses in your heart (credit card payments can be made through PayPal).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The font of stupidity

Some things are a matter of opinion. Some things are a matter of fact. This is fact: Comic Sans is evil incarnate. I am not unique or original in this view, which as mentioned isn't actually a view but a fact, but it is worth pointing out here because for some reason, not everyone is aware that Comic Sans is evil incarnate.

Comic Sans is a font. A typeface. A Microsoft standard font released in 1994 to ape comic book lettering for kiddie stuff. For no reason at all, the world went entirely mad when they saw it and fully-grown, seemingly professional adults started using it for formal communications. At work. For business. This includes businesses that involve children. Even though the communication is directed at the grown ups.

This forced what was a perfectly fine cute and wacky' font to become the most hated thing in design since clipart, and rightly so. There are situations where it is simply not appropriate to communicate using a font whose personality is childish, immature, and incapable of making robust, rational decisions. If that is the personality you are trying to imbue into your writing, then go ahead and use Comic Sans. Just bear in mind that using Comic Sans gives exactly the same messages as! using! an! exclamation! mark! after! every! word!!!

For those of you not familiar with it, you might not think that such an innocent-looking font could possibly give off that much "this communication is FUN!" evilness, but you must bear in mind that the font is now so well-known, it labours not only by its 'cute and wacky' looks, but under the weight of its reputation. Here are some web resources expressing the level of hatred for Comic Sans:

Ban Comic Sans website.

A web comic.

A message from some cartoons.

Loads of great examples of inappropriate Comic Sans use on Flickr if you search, but this is my favourite.

And if you are not sure when it is appropriate to use Comic Sans, here’s a handy flow chart.

The 'sans' in Comic Sans refers to it being a 'sans serif' font; that is, without extra decorative lines like Times New Roman etc. 'Sans' simply means 'without'. So a literal definition of Comic Sans could simply be NOT FUNNY.

I concede that blaming the inventor of Comic Sans for its misuse is like blaming Einstein for nuclear bombs. Remember kids: Comic Sans does not annoy people; people annoy people.

On the other hand, he created a monster. He must die. Or at least give a hundred dollars to everyone who has to look at their work Christmas party invite, created by the token office compulsory fun organiser, which has Comic Sans, clip art, PowerPoint 'word art' styles, and plays a tune and opens a broadband-bandwidth-depleting You Tube video without your prompt.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An often ignored necessity in houses

Can I tell you something very quietly?

I don't want to make too much of a fuss about it because it possibly sounds a bit wanky, but I'll soon be moving to a two-storey house, having loved living in a single storey house, and ...... I want to put a lift in.

Just something simple and subtle (if there is such a thing when it comes to lifts).  Given that I am likely to live in this house until I shuffle off this mortal coil, the lift idea makes sense.

The smallest lift is My Lift. It fits easily into a house, is big enough to take a wheelchair and another person, is quiet and doesn't look like a lift. The doors, which come in different styles of frosted glass, look more like a door to a room than a door to a lift.  Just quickly take a deep gulp and brush over the cost, and you will come to realise that over the lifetime of the house, AUD50,000 is justified in terms of keeping the whole of the house usable for the rest of our lives.  And just think how enjoyable it would be to help the economy by hiring a lift attendant (with uniform).

Or so I'm trying to convince the owner of this house.  I suspect this might be a work in progress.