Monday, December 27, 2010

Is this a return???

Oh Blog.  How I've missed you!  Forgive me for my absence, but life just got away on me as I juggled new singleness, new-fangled unexpectedly busy high-powered job, three kids, new suburb, new schools and kindy, new gym....  And new me.  While 2010 has been good after a rubbish 2009, there has always been a sense that something is missing...... it only took a few months to blog!

It's not like I haven't had anything interesting to say!  People around me are sick of my rantings.  So wait for a re-invention, coming soon.......

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Oily rhetoric

Just to add to the vacuous comments by Tony Hayward (BP's CEO and this month's winner of the made-up-just-now Most Hated CEO) about this "disruption" (FAIL.  Try "DESTRUCTION") because of an inconvenient oil spill, and how this has "cost him a lot of money" (oh my heart bleeds oil for you):
BP CEO Tony Hayward promised that the company would clean up every drop of oil and "restore the shoreline to its original state."
So far, he's has almost redeemed himself.  I say "almost" because he has failed to clarify if this will be cleaned up out of BP's coffers in its entirety, or if the American victims (read: taxpayers) are expected to contribute.
"BP will be here for a very long time. We realize this is just the beginning," he said.
Actually, that scares me.  Just the beginning of what. exactly?  More oil spills?  More failed attempts at ceasing this damage on the coastline and the innocent creatures who once happily populated it?  More pointless rhetoric and failed attempts at sympathy for the CEO?

I've got nothing against drilling for oil - I do not think this one event (well ok, there have been a few) should prevent further oil exploration and drilling.  But I do have everything against BP's rhetoric.  Especially when they have so blatantly prioritised spending enormous sums of money on hypocritical greenie sycophantic advertising, and it seems very little on the safety and maintenance of their oil wells and for the people who staff them, and the innocent wildlife who tolerated giant rigs being randomly placed through their habitats.

And where exactly are those hypocritical greenies who benefited financially from BPs fawning?
“[T]he Nature Conservancy lists BP as one of its business partners. The Conservancy also has given BP a seat on its International Leadership Council and has accepted nearly $10 million in cash and land contributions from BP and affiliated corporations over the years,” Joe Stephens wrote for the Post May 24.

It’s not just Nature Conservancy either, the Post found $2 million in donations to Conservation International and relationships between BP and other lefty activist groups Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Sierra Club and Audubon.
Hard to know what to do.  If I exercise my consumer choice and avoid BP, I'm still unable to shop around for a competitive price, and the only people who will be affected by my boycott are BP's innocent franchise owners and their employees. 

Feeling conflicted.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Minimum wage = unemployment

I love this post from Not PC, so I pinched it from him and posted here.

A simple point from a master writer
Donald Boudreaux’s letters to the editor are small masterpieces of economic proselytisation--like Bastiat in miniature. Here’s his latest to the New York Times (pinched from Cafe Hayek):
Dear Editor:
Suppose Uncle Sam orders you to raise by 41 percent the price you charge for subscriptions to your newspaper.  Would you be surprised to find a subsequent fall in the number of subscribers?  If you assigned a reporter to investigate the reasons for this decline in subscriptions, would you be impressed if that reporter files a story offering several possible explanations for the fall in subscriptions without, however, once mentioning the mandated 41 percent price hike?
Unless you answered “yes” to this last question, I wonder why you published Mickey Meece’s report on today’s record high teenage unemployment rate (“Job Outlook for Teenagers Worsens,” June 1).  Between 2007 and 2009, Uncle Sam ordered teenage workers (who are mostly unskilled) to raise the price they charge for their labor services by 41 percent.  (That is, the federal minimum-wage rose from $5.15 per hour in 2007 to its current level of $7.25 in 2009 – a 41 percent increase.)
Does it not strike you as more than passing strange for your reporter – assigned to help explain why teenagers today have an increasingly difficult time finding jobs – to ignore the fact that these teenagers are ordered by government to raise significantly the wages that they charge their employers?
Donald J. Boudreaux

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chip Scoop Act 2010

The following article from Stuff means any one of the following:

a) the local council felt 3,578,356,825 bylaws just weren't enough, so they teamed with The Chip Group to add one more bylaw, while generating membership for the Group;
b) the anti-food brigade decided it would be more effective to control chip scoop sizes, rather than promote a user pays health care system where people would moderate their behaviour through personal choice; or
c) the chip eating market in Christchurch is too stupid to let the market dictate where they buy their good value, tasty chips from; or
d) it was a slow news night, and the events in Gaza are irrelevant when chip scoop sizes vary and the market is too dumb to buy their chips elsewhere.

Christchurch fish-and-chip shops have backed calls to standardise the size of a scoop.
The Chip Group, which comprises industry figures from potato growers to government agencies, has called for a standard scoop to weigh 330 grams before it is cooked.
The Chip Group chairwoman Glenda Gourley said portion sizes could vary wildly.
"When a consumer walks into a chip shop they don't know what quantity to expect," she said.
"Not only will consumers be better off, but chip-shop operators will also be able to better account for the finance side of their businesses if they know more accurately what they are serving."
In Christchurch, a random test of four shops found that scoops varied from 275g to 425g, while the cost varied from $2 to $2.20.
Lyttelton Fisheries served the 425g portion, while a scoop from City Fish and Chips weighed 275g.
Theo's Fisheries manager Yiannis Ioannou supported the standardised scoop.
The Riccarton Rd retailer does not have a standardised portion.
"That would be a good idea because when you have a set amount you can save a few sacks of spuds a week.
"It would keep it fair for customers," Ioannou said. "We try to keep it as fair as possible, but on a Friday night rush you just scoop it in quickly."
City Fish and Chips manager and co-owner Lou Donaggio also supported the standard scoop size.
"A standardised scoop size would be fairer on people, rather than having one place giving you four chips and another giving you 10."
Donaggio said customers wanted tasty chips, but also good value for money.
Lyttelton Fisheries manager Helen Lei said the shop had no standard scoop size.
But portions usually weighed about 350g before cooking.
Connoisseur Ellen Gray said she was happy with the two scoops of chips, pineapple ring and piece of fish she ordered from City Fish and Chips last night.
"We had a good amount.
"Maybe even too much, but we ate them," Gray said.
"They were good."
Gray said the outlet had been her "local" for about two years.
Gourley said a standard scoop size would be healthier for customers.
"In this day of increased dietary awareness by consumers, it makes sense that customers know exactly what they are getting," she said.
The organisation plans to inform chip shops of the recommended portion size.
It also intends to tell them where they can buy the standard scoop.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A veil on libertarian freedom

(Apologies for the lack of links. Google Chrome doesn't like me today. Which is only adding fuel to my ranting. Will try to repair this asap. The links, I mean.)

If you take a quick scan through the French news websites, you quickly see that Europe is facing some grave economic crises. But still the French cabinet found the time to discuss a draft law banning the wearing of full-face veils in public places. Spain has just slashed public wages and is on the verge of economic collapse, yet the Minister of Work voiced his support to prohibit full Islamic facewear in the streets. Last month, Belgium’s coalition government dissolved and there was talk of splitting up the country, yet the parliament managed to unite 136 out of 138 deputies to vote through a law banning the burqa and niqab.

Why, in such difficult economic times, are European leaders investing such energy in the matter of women’s facewear?

Unless my French has failed me, it appears the burqa-ban laws were introduced with such displays of speechmaking that it is easy to assume the fate of these countries hangs on this single point of principle. One Belgian deputy admitted that ‘the image of our country abroad is more and more incomprehensible’, but said this near-unanimous vote banning the burqa and niqab rescued ‘an element of pride to be Belgian’. A French commission on the veil said the veil was ‘contrary to the values of the Republic’ and the parliament should make it clear that ‘all of France is saying “no” to the full veil’. The Spanish work minister said this clothing ‘clashes fundamentally with our society and equality between men and women. The values of our society cannot go into retreat'.

So how many women in Belgium wear these face-coverings that engaged the whole national parliament at a time of near-dissolution? France has studied the matter and judges that there are 1,900 women in the country wearing the full-face veil. When Denmark passed a law in January limiting full veils in public spaces, there were 200 women wearing the niqab and three women wearing the burqa.

Of course, the niqab is objectionable; it is indeed a mark of women’s oppression and isolation from the public world; it obstructs women’s communication with others, not to mention their vision and general mobility. And yet, at base, this is a piece of cloth. The cloth does not cause oppression, but merely reflects it. The corset and wired skirts did not cause the marginalisation of Victorian women, nor did foot-binding cause the oppression of Chinese women. When English women started to enter the public world, to demand votes and to do jobs, they soon swapped their corsets for the loose-fitting simplicity of 1920s dresses, and then, finally, for trousers.

As Muslim women become liberated, logic tells us they will take off their burqas by their own volition. A programme for the liberation of Muslim women – or immigrants in general – would be a fine thing, and yet this would involve changing their conditions of life and aiding their full participation in society. To ban the burqa is to take on the question of marginalisation at the most superficial level; it is to attack the symbol, to tear off the niqabs and to believe that this is liberation.

These burqa bans do not really ring true as genuine efforts to liberate Muslim women. The measure is less for the benefit of the woman than for the gallant state posing as her protector. In all those high-faluting speeches about their values, politicians reveal the real reason for these laws, which is to create an occasion for their own performance. The draft French law also includes a new crime, targeted at Muslim husbands, of inducing somebody to cover their face, which bears the penalty of a year in prison and a €15,000 fine. And so the state poses as the chivalrous knight rescuing women from their husbands.

There is a new and coercive element to these bans, too, which is the idea that citizens should be visible to the state at all times. It is because of ‘public security’ that Muslim women must show their faces, politicians said in both the French and Belgian parliaments. Who knows what they could be plotting behind those niqabs?

The reason for banning the face veil is illiberal through and through: we must show our faces so that we can be scrutinised by state security. For all the fine talk of openness in social relations, welcoming Muslim women into society and so on, the bans are also a cry of ‘Show your faces!’. A person must show their face so that they are identifiable and scrutinisable. In this sense, the burqa bans share the same impulse as bans on hoods in the Coastlands shopping mall in Paraparaumu on the basis that they might be a ‘security risk’.

Even if you argue that the niqab is illiberal, how much more illiberal is it that the state should tell a woman that she cannot wear one?

Banning is not the answer, to ailments that are either modern or traditional. Banning is never the answer: it is just an excuse for grandstanding and self-justification on the part of the state. Sarkozy may pose as the defender of liberty and equality; in fact, opposing the ban on the veil is the proper libertarian position.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


My life is a complex litany of jargon.  Some of it is useful. Most is just annoying or confusing.  I feel pained when new jargon is added to my addled brain.

Enter the organogram.

In case you are too uncool to get this one, organogram  is a description of a company’s structure.  It is presumably a truncation of organisational diagram?

I am assured by people who like to use this word that it is a common business term.  But this does not change the fact that it is a travesty of the English language.

For your benefit, I did some value for money empirical research, and discovered that the original spelling was organigram (more correct, but still a travesty), and it can be dated back to 1962.  What makes this slightly acceptable is that we seem to have acquired the word from French, in which organigramme has been recorded as long as ago 1952.  Oddly, the first example in the Oxford English Dictionary spells it with an o (rather than an i).  However, for the next few decades, the i form was dominant.

But, all hail the HR professional. In the early to mid 1990s, someone in the HR business decided that, in order to justify their existence in an era of redundancies, organogram with an o looked sexier than with an i.

This does not mean that you need to use this word. I challenge you to make you life more interesting by never using this word.

It is a confusing word, that looks confusingly like it should mean a telegram on organic paper, or a unit of weight.  “Two hundred organograms of my best figs?  Coming right up, Ma’am!”

If you are compelled, or forced on pain of the most barbaric death imaginable, to use this word, at least spell it with an i.  Suffice to say, I will not be using this word in the hope it faces the same fate as the dinosaurs.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fluffy ducks

Homepaddock wins the prize for being the only person today to make me smile.
Three women died together in an accident and went to heaven.
When they arrived, St Peter greeted them then said, ‘We only have one rule here in heaven: Don’t step on the ducks.’
When they entered heaven they found there were ducks all over the place.
It was almost impossible not to step on a duck, and although they try their best to avoid them, the first woman accidentally stepped on one.
Along came St. Peter with the ugliest man she’d ever seen. St. Peter chained them together and said, ‘Your punishment for stepping on a duck is to spend eternity chained to this man.’
The next day, the second woman accidentally stepped on a duck. Along came St Peter. With him was another extremely ugly man. He chained them together with the same admonishment he’d given the first woman.
The third woman observed all this and, not wanting to be chained for all eternity to an ugly man, was very, very careful where she stepped.
She managed to go for months without stepping on any ducks. But one day St Peter came up to her with the most handsome man she had ever laid eyes on.
St Peter chained them together without saying a word.
The happy woman turned to her new companion and said, ‘I wonder what I did to deserve being chained to you for all of eternity?’
The bloke replied, ‘I don’t know about you, but I stepped on a duck.'

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Political compass

I had a play for the first time with my political compass ( this evening.

Economic Left/Right: 5.50
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.49


The analysis shows that my dot is sitting on Milton Friedman's dot.  That's not a bad thing - I could do worse.

I have no idea what to make of the analysis.  Or what to do with this information. So I have decided to be pleased with the results, and to continue to call myself a passive libertarian until I have a lightbulb moment.  Or a blogger tells me that I'm brilliant.  Or otherwise.  Or compares their political compass with mine.

0100hours is never a good hour to analyse these tests.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pride is overrated

Just when I was starting to feel like my work colleagues are like one big, happy, loving family, I had to go and shame myself. Due to a delightful combination of a migraine and a virus, I decided to faint at work. In front of all my colleagues. Including those who work around the corner and not right next to me. And my boss. And the Director. Erk.

Having never fainted before, it was all a bit of a surreal experience, knowing that I was sitting at my desk one minute and then finding myself lying on the floor (quite well vacuumed, I noted) staring at a colleague's knees. Then looking up and staring at the senior management team. Oh my pride. Shot.

But, that aside, again I find myself startled at the extent some people go to help others. One of my colleagues, who I know has a busy workload at the moment, and who probably had better things to do on a Friday night, put all that aside to be with me in the ambulance to the hospital, and in a cubicle in A&E until I was discharge quite a few hours/tests later. It was lovely having her there, and I quickly learnt that the only person who cares about how I look when I'm at my worst is me.

This is the (at least) second time this year that I have been the recipient of such wonderful acts of human kindness. And my gratitude is such that I find it so hard to articulate just how deep that gratitude is.

Life is good.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Creative banking

Unlike most New Zealanders, I’m actually not that fond of banks.

I am unable to get funds out of this one particular bank, for reasons that remain mysterious to both myself and the bank. Let’s call it Eastpac, because I’m sure if I used its real name I’d be charged a fee for it.

I found out this week that I’d been charged a $35 missed payment fee on my credit card.

This was of some surprise to me as I only have one fixed term deposit account with them (which keeps mysteriously getting renewed regardless of my instructions and without my permission, but for me to break it, I will have to incur a fee), and I don't have a credit card.

Being a naturally curious person, I rang the bank and asked why, when I don't have a credit card, there was a missed payment charge taken out of my forever-fixed deposit account.

"Well sir," said the pleasant Bangalorean (who of course happily lives and works in the Palmerston North call centre), "you failed to make a payment after we issued your statement."

"But," I cheerfully pointed out (still puzzling over the "sir" reference), "I don't have a credit card with you."

"Yes sir," the nice woman said, "but after you receive the statement you have to make a minimum payment of $10."

I thought perhaps I was not making myself clear, so I sought to explain my position further.

"Yes, but I do not have a credit card with you."

"Yes, but it wasn’t a payment. You were retiring debt."

"Isn’t that what a payment is?" I asked, out of a genuine desire to know.

"No. A payment is what you do after you get your statement."

"So anything I pay before I get my statement is not a payment?"

"That is correct sir."

"Even if I don't have a credit card with you?"

"Thank you for calling Eastpac. Please call again, sir. Beep beep beep beep beep beep....."

I have long accepted that the world is stupid and I try my best to accommodate this. Except when a bank refuses to give me my money back, and then steals bits of it for no reason.

And, no, I don't like it that the government does the same thing to me.

In both instances, I also don't like that I am totally powerless to stop the theft.

And I particularly don't like that I am now $35 poorer.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Statistkick me

I thought you might like to know how I scored in the cognitive tests.  I still have no idea if my inner psycho was too evident in the interview, but my tests scores and explanations are as follows:
For the verbal reasoning, you completed all 44 questions within the time limit and scored a total of 32 correct responses, an accuracy rate of 73% overall.

Hooray!  I hear you shout in community spirit.  But, wait! Tame that enthusiasm.

When compared against our New Zealand norm group of several thousand graduates and managers who have previously sat this test, your score places you in the 50th percentile. This means that your score was higher than 50% of this norm group and conversely, that 50% of this group has scored higher than you did on this particular test. In other words, your score is in the average range compared to your professional peer group.

That only took me about 10 minutes to understand. I think it's basically saying that I did reasonably well, until I compare my marks to everyone else, in which case I'm just average common schmuck.

Now, keeping in mind that the reason I never became a mathematician is because maths is not my strongest skill, I was thrilled to find out that I scored 54% in numerical reasoning! I passed. Er, not quite.
In comparison to our norm group, this score places you in the 18th percentile, meaning that your score was higher than 18% of our norm group and conversely, that 82% of this group has scored higher than you did on this particular test.

Ok. I feel so very stupid now.

But, wait again! It seems that those who do this particular test are in the top 2% of....something.....I'll say the population of New Zealand because that's quite a nice feeling in the circumstances.

Which means, the 50th percentile of the top 2% is pretty damn good. As is the 18th percentile of the top 2%.

Shame I don't have the mathematical ability to calculate what that means. If anything.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kick me

Do I look like I want to be humiliated, challenged, wrung through the proverbial washing machine?  Because I'm starting to think someone's stuck something on my back that says as much.

I've spent my afternoon being subjected to a psychometric test that was so awful and a cognitive test that was so challenging that I am now oh so tempted to just withdraw the application for this job.  Note that this is not a CEO job, or even a management job.Of course I want to do exceedingly well in it, because that's just the sort of person I am.  But I really have to question the long, demanding, drawn out process for a role that is, really, insignificant in the scheme of jobs.  So far, the process has involved an initial interview with HR, followed  by a panel behavioural interview, followed by a written exercise, then a psychometric test, then a psychometric interview, then a reading cognitive test, then a numerical cognitive test, followed, possibly, by referee checks..... by which point I wonder if I will still be standing with the exertion.

And as for that "psychometrician".  Get a real job.  That is not a job.  The irony of you giving yourself a fancy, meaningless title, analysing information spewed forth by a computer, and then throwing inaccurate labels at me is not lost on me.  No one but you has ever called me a passive polite procrastinator.  The reason for this is because I am not passive or a procrastinator.  I guess for someone who makes up his job title, 1 out of 3 isn't a bad hit.  It's actually not so inconceivable that a person can be polite and decisive.  The fact that you then started throwing various titles in my direction in an effort to fish until you got a bite completely discredits you.

Sadly, though, you are still a vital link in my quest to get this job.  How badly do I really want this job?  Not so badly after today.

But, honestly, I wouldn't hire myself after those cognitive tests.  Usually, I excel at reading comprehension and maths, but today the words just swam around the page and I, oddly, forgot how to calculate ratios.  What happened there?!? And, somehow, I think I shouldn't say I screwed up because the psychometrician  pissed me off.

The world would be a better place if HR and HR-related psychologists just stepped out of the recruitment process.  In fact, the world would be a marvellous place if HR and their psych buddies just sacked themselves.  I'll  be happy to do it for you.  Then we'll see who's the passive, polite procrastinator.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Where is Wino?

I don't mean to pry, but I haven't heard from Kismet Farm for a while.  I know she's going through a rough time lately with her health.  I tried to get in touch with her by posting a comment on one of her posts, but haven't heard anything.  I've never met her, but, like all my blogger friends, I like her.  I'm worried.

This is a long shot, but if anyone is in touch with her, can you let me know how she is and if she needs any help?  And also give her my love and hugs.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An update

Where are my manners?  When I found the time over the last few days to overcome my hiatus and resurrect my blog, the one blog that I should have prioritised was an update of my life, especially for all those bloggers who kindly and selflessly helped me out when I was at my lowest.

The financial and emotional help was a turning point for me. I was able to settle some IOU debts, invest in a cheap but decent suit, nice work shoes, a few shirts, damn lawyers fees. And then I hit the job market before hitting rock bottom again.

And life hasn't been still since. And I have never been busier.

I am now working full time, in the office doing many hours on the days the kids are with their father, and working from home when the kids are with me. It's wonderful to be in the workforce again, and be recognised and needed for my intellect and my grown up social skills.

Don't get too comfortable now. I am still struggling to accept the betrayal around the marriage break up, and I am still struggling with the resentment that comes with only seeing my children for half of the week. And I am struggling with the challenge of juggling work, kids, and ageing parents. And I have frequent crises of confidence.

But, on the whole, life does feel like it's looking up. There is a lot to smile about and laugh at, and it helps that I work with such naturally positive and caring people. At times, the sense of impending clinical depression never feels too far away and I have to make a conscious effort to smile or laugh. But I remain hopeful that in time the effort involved will diminish and it all becomes automatic and totally natural.

I remain thankful - so very thankful - to all who helped me out, and to the many people who are still helping me out in their own wonderful way.

Battery crème eggs

What is this disgusting abomination that is passing off (passing away???) as a crème egg?

A small confession might be relevant here. I have actually only consumed two crème eggs in my lifetime. The first was in 1998. The second one this afternoon.

I didn't enjoy the 1998 crème egg. That sickly sweetness remains ingrained on my taste buds.

I only subjected myself to today's crème egg because I was curious to taste if they had improved at all.

I found the 1998 experience disgusting. But I never recalled them being this revolting.

Forgive me now for going into crème eggs in more detail. The chocolate tasted like baby milk formula (those familiar with baby formula will identify with the stench that I refer to). The texture of the chocolate was soggy and oily, and left a powdery substance (anthax? Gib dust?) on one's tongue that refuses to wash away. And the filling…..ugh. That's the best description I can provide. The consistency was of curdled milk (or perhaps rotting yolk) with undissolved granules (sugar? Gib dust? Anthrax?). And the sweetness was worse than I remembered.

No drink or food consumed since the fateful crème egg error of this afternoon has removed the flavour coating my mouth and relevant digestive organs. Not even toothpaste and mouth wash.

I am stunned that there is a market for this horror.

On the plus side, I know my hips are safe from further crème eggs, and any weight gain from this point on will be due entirely to water retention.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's the end of the world. Again.

This year, I didn't do any rebellious excessive lights on exercises as my snub to ridiculous Earth Hour.  This year I forgot.  Not that it made any difference, because I quite like celebrating my lightbulbs.  At the scheduled time of mass hysteria, I think I was in a restaurant in Mt Victoria, or walking down Courtenay Place, and there wasn't a dangerous candle in sight and all the lights were blazing.  I thank all the bars and restaurants for their thoughtfulness in ensuring no one killed me, or they didn't burn down their premises, or I didn't break my ankle on the way back to my car.

I drove home, via the brightly-lit supermarket, well within the allotted Earth Hour hour, to a house blazing with lights (haha, fooled that burglar), and, once again, I gave my thanks to Mr Edison.  At that point, I did turn off all the unimportant lights, but only because I care about my power bill.

I read a vacuous pro-Earth Hour comment from a friend on Facebook, but chose to deal to it with a deft piece of mental taekwando, using a stance that was fluid, flexible, and centred.

I then decided to get myself a drink of filtered water from my non-efficient fancy fridge.  I couldn't be bothered turning on the lights, not in any deference to Earth Hour, but because I am lazy.  However, tonight was different to most nights.  Tonight, I discovered that my neighbours are Earth Hour freaks, or they were all out, because there was no neighbourly light streaming into my kitchen.  I found my way to the fridge with the help of my shin bones and toes.  I think I may have broken every bone in both legs.

I did get to my fridge, but instead of having a drink of water, chose to empty all the contents from my freezer to use as ice packs.

I blame Earth Hour.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Time management

Oh how strange it has felt to not be physically, or mentally, able to have any time to blog!  Between working in a role that is already intellectually exhausting, looking after children.... ok, I know you all manage to juggle it all.  But HOW?!?!?!?  You're all superhuman!  All I seem to have time to blog about right now is how I have no time to blog.

But, on the plus side, this is a blog post.  And I am hoping that the very act of posting a new blog will be enough to get me into the blog obsession again.  It's not that I can't think of anything to blog about, but by the time I get around to actually blogging, it's all old news.  So I simply read what everyone else has to say, and log off.

Not good.  Time to get my priorities sorted!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Celebrating pain relief

There's an interesting stoush taking place between some of my very different friends on Facebook.  Just to demonstrate the shallowness of some people, these friends have never met each other, but are arguing over personal choices made by others relating to the birth of a child.  This should be a happy event - as I've said in the past, the only satisfactory outcome is a live baby and mother - and yet some people take the opportunity and use it as a platform for their own agenda.

The stoush started innocently enough - someone said they had just given birth, and the congratulations were numerous.  Then someone asked what sort of birth they had.  The word "epidural" was mentioned, and now I am choosing to no longer look at my Facebook account, other than to send messages of sympathy to my now beleaguered friend.  It is clear that there is a warped line of logic that believes a person's individual choice demonstrates the apparent subservience of women to men.  The name of an obstetrician in the UK, Dr Denis Walsh, has been thrown around as providing some sort of wisdom on this topic.  In return, the less than intelligent comebacks have focused on the lack of uterus of Dr Walsh, and therefore his lack of credibility, to make such a statement.

I stare at these comments, and all I can come up with is the deeply intelligent and articulate, "What the ....?"

Birth pains are nothing to celebrate, and I would take a guess that it was degenerate feminists, rather than ignorant men, who first argued that childbirth should be a painful rite of passage.

Dr Denis Walsh is a Professor of Midwifery, who argued that birth pains help mother and child bond.  He criticised women for their "antipathy to birth pain", and criticised the "epidemic" use of epidurals.

Oh dear.

There are many reasons to criticise Walsh, but the fact that Walsh is male is not one of them.  Yes, it is true that Walsh will never give birth, and so will never experience the pain of delivery (although a part of me does hope that he will perhaps experience the pain of kidney stones as some consolation), but that does not explain his apparent lack of understanding and empathy.  Most men and women will never suffer pain because of, say, nerve degeneration, cancer, or travelling kidney stones, but that does not mean they cannot understand such pains and provide sympathy.

There is no reason why anyone should be expected to endure pain from an acute trauma such as childbirth.  Nobody expects victims of car accidents or those undergoing surgery to just "withstand" the pain.  Modern analgesic procedures mean that pain relief can be readily provided, and the patient can be rendered both more comfortable and more likely to make a full recovery.  No procedure is entirely risk-free, of course, including painful childbirth, and women should be made aware of the risks associated with an epidural so as to make an informed choice.  But the risks can easily be exaggerated, as Walsh does in his article, to scare women away from what is an essentially safe, effective and routine procedure.

Walsh is not alone in his crusade against pain relief during labour.  There is a widespread belief that childbirth pain - but not other pain - should be endured, and even celebrated.  A good reason not to get overexcited about Walsh being male is that the origins of this idea lie in feminism.  Having failed to secure equality, around the mid-1970s, feminism took a degenerative turn towards praising the special virtues of women and attacking maleness.

Women were presented as having special empathetic and  nurturing qualities that made them less destructive, and put them into closer contact with nature.  Their ability to give give birth, and their experience of the painful process of giving birth, were held up as evidence of their inner, female wisdom.  Business, politics and medicine were seen as problematic because of male domination.  Thus, for example, it is argued that the Enron debacle might have been avoided if only there were more female CEOs and accountants, Governments would be less corrupt and destructive if there were more female MPs, and medicine would  be more humane and less arrogant if there were  more female doctors.


Women can be destructive and arrogant, just as men can be empathetic and humble.  It might be true that medicine in the 1970s was excessively arrogant and paternalistic, but that had little to do with the male character of medicine and more to do with the high esteem in which medicine was held within the profession and by society at large.  This is certainly no longer the case, and modern medicine is, if anything, now too diffident and understanding at the expense of making tough clinical decisions.  That's partly why nonsensical discussions of "natural" childbirth and pain control techniques (such as yoga, hypnosis, water baths, massage, acupuncture, moxibution, to rattle of just a few) now dominate childbirth discussions.  Non-pharmacological techniques might have their place for some women, but effectiveness is limited and the doctors know that.  As it happens, so do many women.  The use of epidurals during childbirth is known to be increasing because epidurals work and women demand them.

And rightly so.  There is no reason why any woman should endure an entirely preventable pain if she doesn't want to.  The fact that there is a choice available should be what is celebrated, not the personal decision that was made.

Monday, February 22, 2010

WARNING: food is a choking hazard

How about just putting warning labels on everything.  Including the danger that a warning label can present.

This piece of pointless drivel from the NY Times:
Pediatricians Urge Choking Warning Labels for Food 
Published: February 22, 2010 
CHICAGO (AP) -- When 4-year-old Eric Stavros Adler choked to death on a piece of hot dog, his anguished mother never dreamed that the popular kids' food could be so dangerous.
Some food makers including Oscar Mayer have warning labels about choking, but not nearly enough, says Joan Stavros Adler, Eric's mom.
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. The nation's largest pediatricians group is calling for sweeping changes in the way food is designed and labeled to minimize children's chances for choking.
Choking kills more than 100 U.S. children 14 years or younger each year and thousands more -- 15,000 in 2001 -- are treated in emergency rooms. Food, including candy and gum, is among the leading culprits, along with items like coins and balloons. Of the 141 choking deaths in kids in 2006, 61 were food-related.
Surveillance systems lack detailed information about food choking incidents, which are thought to be underreported but remain a significant and under-appreciated problem, said Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Smith is lead author of a new policy report from the pediatrics academy that seeks to make choking prevention a priority for government and food makers. The report was released Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Federal law requires choking warning labels on certain toys including small balls, balloons and games with small parts. Unless food makers voluntarily put more warning labels on high-risk foods, there should be a similar mandate for food, the pediatrics academy says.
Adler, a Warren, N.J. attorney who pushed for more warning labels after her son died in 2001, says she hopes the academy's efforts will work. Several efforts to pass federal legislation for labels have failed in Congress.
The group also urges the Food and Drug Administration to work with other government agencies to establish a nationwide food-related choking reporting system; and to recall foods linked with choking.
Adler considered herself educated about children's safety. Her son had eaten hot dogs before without any problem.
Hot dogs are ''almost as American as apple pie,'' she said. ''You really don't know how horrible it can be.''
Perhaps it is not the food that requires the warning label?

Monday, February 15, 2010

The BNP gains a voter UPDATE

Australia has woken up this morning to the news that one of its anti-immigration advocates has decided to, er, emigrate.  Pauline Hansen has chosen the path of least media resistance and disowned her people - well, Queenslanders living in Oxley, anyway.  It appears Australia has failed in not embracing the Oxley-moron's controversial views on race, her naked photo shoots, her failed attempts to incite paranoia over her non-disappearance, and the lack of interest in her autobiography "Untamed and Unashamed".
ANTI-immigration mouthpiece Pauline Hanson is packing up her bags and emigrating.  She is departing for a new life in the UK, claiming that Australia is no longer the land of opportunity. The former One Nation leader has told Woman's Day magazine she is selling her Queensland home.
"I'm going to be away indefinitely," Ms Hanson said.
"It's pretty much goodbye forever. I've really had enough. I want peace in my life. I want contentment, and that's what I'm aiming for.
"I will miss my children and close friends most of all."
The mother of four - who in 1996 made world headlines when as a new federal MP she blasted multiculturalism in her maiden Parliamentary speech - told the magazine Australia had changed too much for her liking.
"Sadly, 'the land of opportunity' is no more applicable," she said.
She acknowledged her Parliamentary days were behind her, having failed in her latest bid to enter the Queensland Parliament, in March last year. "I know I will never be given a chance to enter Parliament again," she said.
The former fish-and-chip shop owner rose to national prominence 14 years ago when she won the federal seat of Oxley in Queensland. Originally endorsed as the Liberal candidate for the seat, she was cut loose by the party because of her controversial views on race.
In 1997 she formed the One Nation party with David Ettridge and David Oldfield.
Ms Hanson lost the seat at the 1998 election and then tried a further four times to be elected to Parliament. While she became an independent, her former party collapsed and is now a shadow of what it was when she was at the helm.
The alarming rising success of the BNP aside, I'm intrigued that she has chosen the UK as her choice of country to escape to from Australia.  If she has the right to emigrate to the UK, then of course that's fine, assuming her criminal record and time in jail won't be an issue.  But for someone so opposed to a multicultural society, I have some doubts that the UK is the best choice.

Having said that, I'm not succeeding in suggesting an alternative country for her to consider.  Partly because I can't think of any country that has a population of entirely white Australians, and also because I can't think of any country that I think deserves to be inflicted with her.  China is a largely homogeneous society, but the problem with China for Pauline Hansen is that there are too many Chinese people living there.  India, too, is largely homogeneous, but she may have some trouble acclimatising there, as well.  Zimbabwe has embraced policies that she may be proud of, but in the wrong order.

Pauline, perhaps, in time, you will realise that Oxley, Oueensland, is the ideal place for you, but, while I have nothing against the UK (in fact, I feel a little sorry for the UK right now), I do hope that you are happier in another country and that you stay there.  Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

UPDATE: I am contemplating adding "psychic" to my CV.....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Top Ten Rock Albums as decided by...... The Vatican

Apologies, but I am unable to find the order just yet:

Michael Jackson: "Thriller"
Pink Floyd: "Dark Side of the Moon"
The Beatles: "Revolver"
Paul Simon: "Graceland"
Carlos Santana: "Supernatural"
David Crosby: "If I Could Only Remember My Name"
Fleetwood Mac: "Rumours"
Donald Fagan: "Nightfly"
U2: "Achtung Baby"
Oasis: "What's The Story Morning Glory"

I clearly need to upgrade my collection.

Another lesson in perspective

Blogger PM of NZ has drawn attention to interesting articles in today's NZ Herald (perhaps I found them interesting given my personal circumstances at the moment).

All very sad stories about marriages destroyed because of infidelity, and the war that has ensued over assets, with children caught up in all the animosity.

But one comment stands out.  A lawyer, Geoff Harrison, has said financial pressures had hit the marriages of the wealthy.

No problem with that comment, except why restrict the pressures to the wealthy here?

But then, with his two feet firmly in his mouth, he unfortunately tried to also stuff his knees in by continuing (my bold and italic):
Often they end because the relationship has gone financially bust."
For some, the loss of wealth was "not unlike when there has been a death of a child".
How utterly offensive and disgusting.  Yes, a marriage breakup, and the financial pressures that inevitably arise, are stressful.  Extremely stressful.

But nothing - NOTHING - can ever be as horrendous as losing a child.

Unless he can prove convincingly that his comment was taken out of context, and at this moment I am struggling to see how such a statement could be taken out of context, I won't be hiring that insensitive, thoughtless, callous lawyer in a hurry.  To put material hardship ahead of the value of the life of a child suggests he is unsuited to a career in family law.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Driven to boredom by the big news networks (CNN and BBC), I have lately resorted to watching Sky News.  This is not because Sky News is an improvement, but rather because it was the only one left that didn't annoy me with its either screaming-aint-news-sexy CNN-style delivery or mumbling-half-asleep BBC-style delivery.  And I can't work out what the NZ newsreaders (sorry, "journalists") are trying to say.

But, alas, my patience has been pushed to the point where, as of today, all my news will be from the print media (although this, too, is trying my patience - a blog is likely to follow in time), and fellow bloggers who have a higher tolerance level than me.

My first warning to Sky News came when I stopped watching the sports news on the basis that the accents of the sports news readers was uncultured and grating.  They all come across as brash, cocky, arrogant and, in urgent need of elocution lessons.

My second warning came after I started noticing glaring spelling errors in the pop up info, and in the annoying little news ticker tape thingy at the bottom of the screen that keeps distracting my attention.  Initially, my good nature gave them the benefit of the doubt and I simply assumed it was fast-typing errors (but a spell check doesn't take long).  Sadly, I was misled.  The errors were, in fact, due to a lack of literacy.  Noticeable frequent errors include (correct spelling in parentheses in case anyone from Sky News is reading this): creul (cruel), Indain (Indian), Minster (Minister), alot (a lot), thankyou (thank you), occassion (occasion), liquify (liquefy), wierd (weird), and, the final straw for me, Feburary (February).

Today, I gave up Sky News for good following several versions of anaptyxis.   For those readers now wondering why I have given up on Sky News because of an apparent allergic reaction, anaptyxis is the incorrect insertion of a vowel to break up a troublesome consonant cluster, as in the common mispronunciation "mis-chee-vee-us" (mischievous is correctly pronounced "mis-che-vus").

Anaptyxising has its place, of course.  In French, for example, Parc des Princes (a big stadium in Paris) as is pronounced par-kuh-des-princes.  And the Japanese borrowings of English words often involve anaptyxis, such as "hottu doggu" for hot dog, and "Macadonalado" for McDonald's.

But, and here's the key, French and Japanese are not English.

I have been patient with Sky News, but, to date, I have collected nine examples of anaptyxis.  Enough is enough.  The following words must forevermore be pronounced correctly in my presence:

And, while I'm on this rant, where did the word "hospitalised" come from?  Am I correct in understanding that a footballer was turned into a hospital after breaking his ankle?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spam me kangaroo down, sport

Nearly six months ago, I entered a brave new blogging world, through something called "the Internet", that was apparently invented by Al Gore.

I was a bit apprehensive at first.  I knew my otherwise intelligent mind  wasnt being fully utilised as a stay at home mum, and there were so many things I needed to rant about to take my mind off a difficult personal life.

But then I realised that blogs can also be used as a force for good.  One particular blog commenter stands out.  Unfortunately his voice has been somewhat stifled from appearing in my blogs by my obsessiveness with keeping out spammers, but here is a selfless person who deserves some recognition.

Enter Gary Green, a councillor from Rockdale, NSW.  I could tell you more about him, but I think it's better if he tells you himself.
Councillor Gary Green has lived in the City of Rockdale for the past 15 years and is a successful businessman in the field of Self Development.
Councillor Green is a Peak Performance Coach and 5th Dan Taekwondo Master (MAIA) with formal qualifications in Performance Psychology (ACAP), Technical Analysis (ATAA), Clinical Hypnotherapy (NSWSHS), Coaching (ASC), Workplace Training/Assessment (ISA), Retail Management (ISA), Ego State Therapy (Mac.), and a University Masters Degree in Counselling (Psych. UWS). 
He teaches Taekwondo classes at Narwee and was selected to represent Australia in the sport.  Councillor Green is also a Clinical Member/Supervisor with the Australian Counselling Association, Clinical Member of the Counsellors and Psychotherapist Association, Full Member of the NSW Counselling Association, and long term member of the New South Wales Justices' Association.  Councillor Green's hobbies include hang-gliding, playing piano/keyboard, anaerobic/aerobic training and ongoing study.
I'm not going to say anything critical about this because Gary knows taekwondo.

But I will say this: it is clear that, when he's not hang-gliding or playing the keyboards or anaerobic/aerobic training, Gary spends all his time helping others.  Who is there to help Gary?

I am.

I am touched that I can help Gary by letting him spam my blogs.  No need to thank me, Gary.  I care for your wellbeing and am so pleased to be able to help you.

Appeasing Hindu Guilt

These last few days have been one of the most enlightening I have ever experienced.  

One month ago, my father was negotiating working for longer (he's almost 70), and I was selling stuff so that we could pay the first lot of legal fees, on top of standard living expenses.  The next lot of legal fees (hopefully the last of it) is due soon - at the same time as school fees, stationery fees, kindy donations, the need to buy work clothes for me, and ongoing living expenses.  But the pressure of money is definitely relieved enormously with your show of kindness, whether financial or emotional.  There does reach a point where I wonder if I have thanked people enough already, but then I lapse into old habits of feeling so grateful, that nothing I say or do is enough to satisfy me.

One of the emotions I have been battling with is the curse of Hindu Guilt, which I have referred to in the past, and which is, I believe, superior to Catholic Guilt (yes, it is a competition).  This is particularly problematic and puzzling for me because I am not actually Hindu.  My parents are, but not me.  I don't know why I am feeling so guilty through all this.  Perhaps it's the thought that, even though I have no issue with the provision of welfare for short term emergencies, I never expected I would need to be a recipient of the hard earned tax money of others.  Or perhaps it's the knowledge that there is probably someone out there worse off than me who hasn't benefited from the kindness of others because they didn't happen to have a blog that happened to be read by generous people.  Regardless of the reasons, I've spent a large amount of my time trying to work out how I can appease this peculiar sensation of guilt.

Guilt is as inescapable as death and taxes. If you have a conscience, you have guilt. The feeling of guilt or remorse is exclusive to humans. No other animal has this. Dogs may look guilty, but that’s just dread when they’ve done something they know will upset you. The dog has no trouble sleeping at night.

Perhaps my term “Hindu guilt” is code for mocking the workings of a healthy conscience.    As close friends and family reminded me when I was bemoaning this to them, I have helped people out enormously when their luck has deserted them (I even moved my life to the USA on one particular occasion), or when they just needed a friend.  I volunteer most of my spare time to various charities (mainly the kindy).  And I have realised that I am as embarrassed at receiving gratitude as I am at giving it!

I am getting a lot of comfort knowing that what goes around comes around.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Seeing life from a new perspective

One day I will eventually stop gushing my effusive gratitude to you. Thanks to Lindsay, I'm starting to see things through a new perspective. I'm loving these lightbulb moments. Thank you AGAIN!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The kindness of bloggers

I wasn't going to look at the computer tonight, having spent much of the day shifting far too many cubic meters of rocks in the hot sun.  Exacerbated by the stress of having to reverse a trailer.

I did actually draft, in my head, a blog that ranted on the impossibility of reversing a trailer.

But, when I decided to type out the frustrated, trailer-reversing diatribe, I stumbled across an email, then a blog by Lindsay Mitchell, and all trailer-reversing thoughts detached from the proverbial tow bar.

My last blog was a form of stress release, where I detailed the humiliation of finding myself in a position where I need short term financial help.  I know I will get a job soon, and that job will be well over the minimum wage - well over.  But this doesn't help me in the short term.

I never intended that blog to be a cry for donations.  It was only intended to be a rant about the unfairness of the welfare system.

So, imagine my utter surprise when I read that other bloggers have followed Lindsay's call to financially help humble little (well, kind of little) me, and have so generously offered to help me cover my shortfall.  It's hard to know what to say, or how to articulate the depth of my astonishment and, more importantly, my gratitude.

I suspect part of my problem at not being able to just take the money and be gracious at the same time is Hindu guilt.  Catholic guilt seems feeble in comparison.  Not that it's a competition.  Or perhaps it is.

I've always been taught that there is always (probably) someone worse off than me.  This is undoubtedly true.  And I hope that I too can help them in the same way that people - in my case, complete strangers, only united by blogs - have been so kind to me.

I know today's blogging event provides an important lesson to me, but I am ashamed that this lesson hasn't yet broken through the shock of the kind gestures.  When it does, I will definitely be blogging the revelation.

In the meantime, I must remember that while I may feel utterly lost, depressed and alone after a number of humiliating experiences, the reality is far different.  I have my good health, my loving family, my beautiful children, my non-judgmental friends, and a community of the kindest bloggers anyone could wish for.

For the first time in a long long long time, I have a feeling I will be sleeping a little better tonight.  And smiling a little more for my children tomorrow.

Thank you.  I love you all, and I will wait for the day when I can either repay your kindness, or shout you a drink (which is also a kind gesture, I suppose!).

Friday, February 5, 2010

What more can I sell?

It's now just over three months since my marriage/family breakup.  In that time, the kids' father and I have worked out a so-far successful 50/50 arrangement, the kids seem happier, the old house has sold (for a crap price, but sold is sold), I'm settled into my childhood home again, one child has started school, one is now at a new kindy, and one is now sleeping happily in two houses.

But I need money to make ends meet.  Although my parents aren't complaining about having to support me again, I feel enormous guilt that I am being a financial burden to people who have worked so hard for so many years and are having to spend their hard-earned retirement money in this way.  I am actively looking for work, and have a few promising options looming, but it doesn't resolve my short term financial crisis.  The ex is being belligerent, and to fight for any support from him, no matter how short term, ironically involves spending money on legal fees to obtain.  A rock and hard place sandwich.

So, on the urging on well-meaning friends, I took a deep breath, swallowed my already damaged pride, and went to a WINZ office.
"What have I got to lose," I tried to justify to myself.  "I've already sold my confidence, self esteem, security, stability, family cohesiveness.  Might as well sell my dignity while I'm at it.  Wonder how long it will be before I'm in a position to buy some depression?"
Up until my recent, life-changing events, I was critical of the welfare state.  I refused to accept most arguments for its existence, beyond a degree of assistance to help those in short term strife.

But, for me, it was not to be.  Having completely surrendered my dignity by walking into a bloody WINZ office, I was then humiliated.  Forgot that was free.

It seems I should have no trouble finding a job (yes, I know that, but it doesn't solve my problems until I GET that job), and that maybe I should rethink my decision to break up the marriage.  Is there, by any change, I can try and resolve the issues with my ex?  Because there are apparently people out there who need financial assistance more than me.

Perhaps being open about my situation was my very downfall.  Perhaps I should have lied about my background and my education and my past career.  Perhaps I should have stayed in an abusive marriage.  Perhaps I should have said that I intend to not look for a job, that I intend to reproduce wantonly, and that I intend to stay on a benefit forever.

Would that have made me a more worthy recipient?

Do they honestly think I actually wanted to walk into their office in the first place?

Hell, I was even prepared to consider paying it back once I got a job.

Instead, I am now essentially begging, and relying on the goodness of friends and family to help me pay the shortfall through interest free loans.  The new lifestyle is hardly hedonistic.  I no longer use the car, there are no luxury items on the grocery list, and the biggest treat for the kids last week was a $1 DVD borrowed from the library.  I am baking most things for the lunchboxes, and the kids haven't had new clothes since Christmas.  Any clothing and shoes for the kids is coming from friends, The Warehouse sales, and op shops.  This is life on the cheap.

The reality is what I am seeking to make ends meet is only around $75-100 per week.  This is considerably less than what I have contributed to the NZ government coffers in my working life so far.  As a crude calculation, I estimate that I have contributed the government has stolen from me about $346,500 in taxes alone.

But I don't get any short term help, even though my intentions are good.  And yet I am expected to continue my contributions.

Where is the incentive to work?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Shark Unionists and the food chain

My teeth gnash when Shark Unionists try to challenge something that is patently true.  These are the people who will tell you that sharks don't mean to kill people. That sharks are misunderstood because they were abused as kids (no doubt because their parents were bloody sharks).  Or they are just curious.  Or they are just defending themselves from deadly boogie boards.  Or that sharks actually use their teeth as hands.

A state government in Australia even got in on the pro-shark PR, relaunching the grey nurse sharks as the "labradors of the ocean".  Awwwww.  Let's scratch the tummy of the cute grey nurse shark, now.

Let's take a closer look at these assertions.

1.  The shark's intentions
We all know that the best intentions can go astray.  The problem with a well-meaning white pointer is that one of your limbs is likely to go astray as well.  I am making an assumption here that you are unlikely to care whether it was an accident or not when you're one leg short or a biped in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

2.  The somewhat mystical contention that "sharks use their teeth as hands".
Clearly, in this instance, the sharks have hired their lawyer through Legal Aid.  What sadistic, murderous animal uses its teeth as hands?

3.  The shark is just curious.
There is the often raised argument that sharks do not seek to eat humans, because they don't really like how we taste.  This only adds insult to injury.  And, if it is true, bearing in mind that everything a shark eats is washed down with pints of salty sea water, surely anything would just taste like spam anyway?

4.  "Labradors of the Ocean"
The worst risk I have ever faced with my past labradors has been chewed slippers.  My limbs generally remained resolutely unchewed.

Sharks have happily, uncomplainingly, binged on surfboards, old boots, and helicopters (see the documentary Jaws 4: The Revenge).  We are not referring to fussy eaters.  You won't find a great white popping into The Fat Duck to ask Hester Blumenthal for a touch more wild thyme jus.

The shark is evilness itself.  There is no love in the shark's eyes.  Why is it necessary to excuse the violent behaviour of the shark?  Perhaps the pain and shock of losing a beloved limb results in delusional statements from the recent amputee.  Having never fed myself to a shark, I cannot relate.  But this does not distract from the fact that their statements are irresponsible and not very helpful.  The solution is to send the Shark Unionists into the sea first, thus ensuring the sharks are not hungry when we have to go for a swim later.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Celebrity, heal thyself!

The world can barely contain its excitement!  Just when life was getting boring, along comes a disaster in a country populated by black people!  Bring out the chosen ones, with the most finely honed rescue instincts: The Celebrity.

Haiti's earthquake has brought out the tweeting, singing, dancing, cheque signing, hand-delivering aid celebrities from around the world.  The George Clooney-led Hope for Haiti Now telethon is estimated to have raised $95m in just two hours. Oh, the lure of celebrity endorsement!

It is tempting (and I admit that this analysis is based on snippets caught on the news) to be cynical about heartstring-tugging fundraisers, especially when they include Alicia Keys performing "Prelude to a Kiss" to a backdrop of weeping Haitian babies , and Beyoncé changing the lyrics of some song called "Halo" to include the words "Haiti, we can see your halo, you know you're my saving grace."

It is easy to mock pop star celebrities' earnest remarks, and to snigger at their heo antics, when the likes of John Travolta (at least I've heard of him) showed up in Port-au-Prince in a private jet packed with ready-to-eat-without-a-microwave military rations, and medicines, and accompanied by the most important emergency rescue resource of them all: a herd of Scientology ministers.

"But, OM," you might say, "so what if it's all a bit cheesy?  At least these celebrities are Doing Something.  Isn't that the important thing now to get aid over to Haiti, where hundreds of thousands are reported to have died and one million are now homeless, as quickly as possible?"

Yes, I agree it is important that we try to help if we can, and it is heartening that people around the world have been moved to donate millions to help Haitians rebuild their lives.  But it is also worth taking a hard look at just why Haiti has rocked up to the position of The Top Cause For Celebrities, and what consequences this might have.

Is the road to hell paved with crooning celebrities?  Past experiences show that fundraising frenzies inspired by emergency situations tend to to little to improve the lives of people "over there", but these earnest initiatives do a lot to lend some meaning to life over here.

Just like with past causes célèbres, such as Ethiopia and Darfur, the earthquake in Haiti has quickly become more to do with about well-to-do Westerners than catastrophe-struck Caribbeans.  It is news that allows celebrities and politicians to keep a flattering spotlight on themselves (always making sure they wear casual clothes and no (or little) make up), and chance for celebrity reporters, such as Mike McRoberts to take a little girl to a hospital shelter in time for the evening news bulletin.  For politicians who are desperate to score some easy points with their electorates, Haiti is the place to be.  Who can disagree with a statement that the earthquake was tragic and was a devastating event and that Haitians deserve help?

Over the past week, the celebrities have elevated themselves into selfless heroes, and turned themselves into intermediaries for our sympathy, as if we can only really care about Haitians if we know that movie stars and pop singers are personally affected and touched by their fates.  We are encouraged to follow and interpret what is going on in Haiti through the concerns and emotions of the stars.  Haitian-born singer, Wyclef Jean, wraps the flag of his native country around his neck, sings a Creole tune, and tells telethon viewers that he has just returned from Haiti, where he pulled his countrymen out of the rubble, carried the bodies of mothers, fathers, children to the cemeteries.  We are encouraged to feel for the former Fugees member as much as for his Haitian friends.

Admit occasional good news stories of people being pulled out alive from beneath the rubble, we have also learned that the disaster is helping to bring some of our most popular celebrities back together, with some selfless stars leaving old quarrels aside in the name of helping Haitians.  The juiciest gossip of all is that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were spotted chatting backstage at Clooney's telethon.  And this just as news spread that Pitt is separating from Angelina Jolie, whom he left Aniston for five years ago.  Will Brad and Jen become an item again? Will Haiti bring them together?

Once the televised pitythons are over, and the realities of delivering emergency relief set in, who will really benefit from all this feelgoodness?  Who will really get the money?

In the world of celebrity humanitarianism, the Live Aid concerts of the 1980s, initiated by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, are seen as the hallmark for bombastic fundraisers.  The charity they created raised over $300m over the next 20 years and caused a wave of sympathy for emaciated Ethiopians who dominated the television screens and front pages of the newspapers in the mid-1980s.

But not only did it imprint an image in Westerners minds of Africans as fly-stalked, wide-eyed, helpless and childlike creatures, it also did very little, if anything, to help.  Few of the suffering Ethiopians saw the cash, which instead helped to boost the coffers of the Mengistu-regime and prolong the war and suffering in Ethiopia.

Now it is the turn of Haiti to attract the mass descent of aid workers, diplomats, journalists and celebrities.  Self-important, sanctimonious aid agencies might claim to have the best of intentions, but they are actually contributing to the tragedy and catastrophe with an obsession with box ticking procedures and distrust of the Haitian people.  A UN peacekeeper nicely summed up the disdain and loathing among the rescue workers when he said of the fellow human beings he is meant to help: "Whatever we do, it doesn't matter - they are animals."

Reports from the earthquake aftermath have oscillated between portraying Haitiains as desperate, helpless victims and desperate, marauding savages who can only be saved and tamed by caring Westerners.  Because Haiti is poor, lacking in infrastructure, and has a political regime widely regarded as illegitimate, Western figures can easily portray themselves as a new hope for the country, and can justify placing themselves in loco parentis.  In this sense, Haiti is well suited as a place where celebrities and politicians can come together or reunite their romance.

Of course, as with the 2004 tsunami, the suddenness, force and scale of the destruction in Haiti has meant the earthquake has become a global concern, as it should be, and no doubt many celebrities, politicians and aid workers are sincere in their desire to help.  But while celebrities have helped raise impressive sums of money in a short time, the message being sent out here is that those black, pitiful savages over there should be grateful that a who's who list of global celebrities are getting together to rescue them, not just from the rubble, but also from their ineptness.

The last thing Haiti needs is to be turned into a stage for attention-deprived celebrities.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Topical epicurean adventures UPDATE

When I was younger, I was easily swayed by hype, and was thus on the side of the whales. With the wisdom of a few more years, and having watched many antics of anti-whalers, I have now developed a taste for whale meat.

Much to the dismay of Greenpeace, the recent war on the high seas between Greenpeace and Japan has only piqued my interest in edible marine mammals.

A Joint of Whale Meat Steeped in Red Wine Marinade would be very nice, but I might pass on the Cape Flattery Whale Mincemeat Pie. I hasten to add that my decision to pass on the mince whale meat has nothing to do with Greenpeace and everything to do with a dislike of the consistency of mince.

The Sea Shepherd’s Chief Plankton, prior to this week’s ocean reality tv, has said that “The Ady Gil gives us the speed necessary to catch and stay with the Japanese whaling fleet.”

But, oddly, when it really mattered, it appeared to not have speed to avoid getting hit by lumbering, very heavy whale ships. From the outset, I was disturbed by the design of the Ady Gil. As I am no boat builder, I will refrain from offering constructive advice, and just say that I thought it looked weird. I often wondered if there was something wrong with her. Now I know Greenpeace thought the same (oh the shame of sharing a thought with Greenpeace) and they decided they needed a new chase boat, hopefully paid for by insurance (that bastion of evil capitalism), so that’s why they shoved her under a whale ship’s bow.

The Sea Shepherd’s mother ship is registered in the Netherlands and the group’s lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, feeling left out of the international blubbering, said the group had filed a complaint there too.
This particular ship that attacked the Ady Gil was at a close distance all the time since they left the Australian harbour.
It was sent out and equipped for following and harassing the Ady Gil.
The whaling boat in question, the Shonan Maru 2, has a top speed of 12 knots. The Ady Gil, which holds a record for global circumnavigation, can streak along at 45 knots. Is legal counsel conveniently missing some pertinent points?

The video coverage shows the crew of the Ady Gil sitting around congratulating each other on how awesome they all are. Then the Shonan Maru 2 appears in the background, sounding an audio alarm. The crew’s dismissive response ("I’m so scared!” “Somebody get me out of here!") indicates a certain lack of concern for their situation.
We were just idling. My guy driving tried to turn to starboard at last minute but was too late.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been too late if you moved earlier, when the Japanese warned of their approach.

Also had a wave pick us up which carried us another metre or so into danger. In the end we had right of way. They were on our port side and they were also overtaking. So it is up to them to steer clear of us regardless.

So now it’s the fault of a wave, made more convincing by the use of non-nautical terms in increments of one metre, this is following the casual placement of said boat in the general path of a 500-ton vessel making its way through rough seas.

Now will these littering envionazis clean up the environmentally-polluting greenie mess they left behind?  I’m too scared to suggest this directly to Greenpeace, in case they choose to voice their protest against me by running their car under my SUV, or defacing my house, abseiling down my trees to unfurl a banner, shrieking into their cellphones while Geoff Robinson tries to talk to them, or burning an effigy of me.

But, like most things, a good thing has come out of this incident. The Ady Gil, that maritime monument to green hypocrisy, is not very seaworthy at the bottom of the sea. Building a speed boat out of autoclave-baked carbon fibre and powering it with a poor country’s food supply isn’t going to help the planet or humanity.

Disregard that last paragraph.  I mistook Greenpeace for people who care.

UPDATE Nobody says it quite like South Park (thanks to Oswald Bastable).

Monday, January 4, 2010

As if childbirth and child rearing isn't scary enough

I am offended by this truly sickeningly obnoxious blog written by a Canadian midwife.  Her disgusting post provides us with a 7-step recipe for creating an autistic child.  If I can bring myself to give her some credit (deep breath, OM, you can do it), she has at least changed the name of her blog posting to "7 step recipe for scrambling the brain of a baby".  But that wasn't her original intention and only happened after comments were posted.

If you have always wanted your very own autistic child, and never knew how to get one, read on!

1.  Allow ultrasound technicians to "date" your pregnancy, see if you have twins, check the growth of your baby. Even one ultrasound affects your baby’s brain. Multiple ultrasounds will move cells in the brain around and also affect future generations of your family.
2.  Eat whatever you like in pregnancy. Don't take the time and trouble to study the effects of over-processed, high fat diets. Don't worry about buying organic produce and meat.
3.  Let your physician induce you. Induction drugs over-ride Nature’s pace of the birth process. They cause prolonged periods of oxygen deprivation similar to holding a pillow over your child's face. Any form of hurrying you into the birth process or, once into it, hurrying the process faster than it goes naturally will damage cells in the baby’s brain.
4.  Take pain-killing drugs during your child's birth. Every anesthetic goes immediately to the baby so choose whatever one you like. The longer the baby is medicated, the more brain damage is done.
5.  Continue on with the interventions in birth by having a cesarean, forceps or vacuum pull out of your baby. None of these procedures are gentle. All involve incredible traction on the baby’s neck and head. Sometimes all three are used on the same baby. Risks of all 3 are increased when inductions and epidurals were brought into the birth.
6.  Once your baby is born, feed him/her solutions made by pharma giants like Mead Johnson.
7.  Be sure to inject your baby with every toxic pharmaceutical vaccine that your doctor recommends. Don't do any research. 36 vaccines is the modern North American child's recommended allotment of mercury preserved toxic waste.
Remember that this frightening excuse for a midwife has no specific scientific training.  Highly qualified scientists have been puzzling for decades over the cause of autistic spectrum disorders and the latest evidence points to a genetic component. But let's conveniently ignore all of that and instead follow the advice of a dubious midwife.

So, autism is caused by interventions in childbirth.  It's all so simple, and I am thrilled that, based on this, I apparently have 3 autistic children (I presume their autistic behaviour will become apparent eventually?). No, wait a minute.  Autism is actually caused by ultrasound (lucked out there 3 times too). Wait, no, it's caused by eating the wrong food in pregnancy. Oops, I spoke too soon, it's caused by pitocin. No, silly me, it's caused by epidurals. Wrong again, it's caused by C-sections (why don't I just institutionalise all 3 children now).  Or, it's caused by formula. Wait, no, it's caused by mercury in vaccinations. Vaccines no longer have mercury in them? No problem, it must be caused by the vaccinations themselves (my kids are doomed!).

This woman, with her blind ignorance and with no formal training in science, statistics or medicine, has boldly gone where only stupid people have gone before. And, as a special bonus, she manages to be thoroughly offensive at the same time.

She is right about one thing, though. If you hire her as a midwife and your baby dies as a result of her idiocy, it will not develop autism. Somehow I doubt this will be of comfort to the parents.

Translating Indlish into Strine

Not for the first time, I am puzzled that I somehow came out of the Australian education system with a passing grasp of English.

An Australian, whose day job is - dear me - a teacher, on holiday in India, felt it would be productive to sanctimoniously mock the locals:

As we drove though a mid-sized village I noticed a petrol tanker at a service station bearing a hand-painted sign on the back: “Highly inflammable”. I love Indlish.

Strewth, you plonker. It isn’t "Indlish". The locals are correct. Change your profession. Now.

So, Indians for whom English is probably their third, if not, fourth or fifth language (granted, this is probably 40,000,000 Indians), show up an Australian, for whom English is probably his mother tongue. What lovely irony.

Bring on the Education Revolution.