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.