This is not a test. Unless it is, and no one told me so I haven't revised, which means I'm going to fail. Thanks for that.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Who writes this stuff?

Today I received an email that was circulated round the office. It was a ‘helpful warning’ for motorists to be careful when returning to their parked cars. Essentially ‘car jacking gangs’ are going round sticking bits of paper to people’s rear windscreens, so when the driver returns to their parked car, switches on the engine, and goes to reverse out of their space they see the paper and get out of the car to remove it. Leaving the car unlocked, keys in the ignition, bag on the seat. At this point the ‘car jacking gang’ jumps them and nicks off with their car.

Now, usually this would be little cause for frustration. However the email has to be suffixed with the following:

“Be thankful that you read this email, and forward it to friends and family especially to women!”

Especially to women!

Why?

Can people tell which cars are women’s cars? Do they look in the windows and go,
“ah yes, Dido cd, air freshener, woman’s car – No.1 target located.”

Why would women be especially at risk for this type of crime?

I fucking hate these stupid emails. They just perpetuate over and over that women should be scared of everything and that really they should not be out shopping/eating/meeting friends/working because they are so in danger! No passtime is safe. Women, understand, you should really be at home. Hoovering.

Oh yeah, and if you shrugged the ‘helpful warning’ off by thinking it’s just the big cities, think again. The final sentence finishes the email with a kick in the nads,

“JUST BE AWARE AND TAKE CARE. IT WILL SOON ARRIVE IN YOUR AREA.”

Remember women, you’re never safe.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wednesday night and the women are missing

Please excuse thie camera phone photo, it is a less than great evidence gathering tool

Last night I met a friend in the city. We went to the pub, there were no women. The place was a women free zone. Old men occupied the seats.

We sat, discomforted by the male domination of our watering hole, and spoke about Subtext plans. A man came over. He asked ‘Is this a private conversation or can anyone join in?’. It was clearly a private conversation, as generally two people engaged in and talking animatedly about something are not offering their company to all in sundry passing by.

This man, told that the conversation was indeed private, did not leave, but instead pretended to be a crab, perhaps this was some kind of ploy to appear endearing. It failed and he appeared more annoying.

We left the pub.

The next pub we entered was also full of men. There was one other woman in the building, who was sat in a corner with a man whom she appeared to be in a relationship with. All eyes fell on us as we entered, ordered our drinks and found a set.

I ask you, where are all the women on a Wednesday night? Are they watching the Chippendales? Are they at home ironing the men’s shirts and caring for the children? Are they watching ‘Lost’ and the hot hot cast?

Sex and the City steered me wrong. They’re certainly not out boozing it up with their mates, unless they’re me, I like a bit of mid-week boozing.

I'm glad I'm not at school boss.

For some reason, this morning I feel the need to proclaim my undying love for the JCB song by Nizlopi. I may even go out and buy the single.

Do they still sell cassettes? It would be good on cassette.

Every time I hear, at the same little bit, my eyes prickle with tears. Though I'm a soppy old fool so this is not so rare.

"I'm Luke I'm 5 and my dad's Bruce Lee, he drives around in his JCB..."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Re-touch me

Halle Berry, a picky client?
Today I came across this website for a photograph re-touching company.

The beauty of the site is in the before and after pages, where the achievements of the re-touching are shown. You will notice boobs are made bigger, arms and tummy made smaller, any discolouration or texture of the skin is removed.

After a while the re-touched photos began to look like someone had painted over them completely – I found it hard to believe some were even used – but another page shows they were, and in on which publication cover.

Looking through I noticed some trends in the retouching process:
  • Boobs, as mentioned were often made bigger and plumper, they were never reduced.
  • Arms were thinned
  • Tummys were made smaller, and abs defined
  • Bums were often made smaller, and given more ‘definition’ though sometimes they were rounded.
  • Skin tone was ‘warmed’ in every picture, discolouration was removed, texture was removed, lines, hair, shadows. Shine was added to the skin in many of the pictures.
  • Nails were painted and makeup applied.

These standard adjustments to the finished photo are parallel to modern standards of beauty in the west. Bronzer to warm your skin tone, boob jobs so you’re bigger and plumper, diets, calorie counting or surgery to get skinny arms, skinny bellies, defined bum, and countless lotions and potions are marketed to us so we can get flawless shiny skin, make up, make up, make up.

But, this website accidentally exposes the truth. If the rich and famous still can’t achieve to beauty ideal with their personal stylists, trainers, make up artists, dieticians and expensive potions then it is crystal clear that regular women cannot either. It is clear that no matter how much money you throw at them cosmetics will never be able to recreate this false ideal.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tears and upset at bedtime.

I spent much of yesterday evening working on two application forms for jobs in the social services working in support/therapy for people with learning difficulties and mental health problems. The more I looked at the person specification the more I realised there was not a chance in hell that I would get either job, or even be interviewed. I don’t really know why I continued to apply, and why I posted the application forms off at all. Maybe I hate myself and I like to get rejected again and again!

I went home (I had to use my parents’ computer to do the forms) and my partner was sitting on the sofa. When I got in he picked up that I was upset straight away and quizzed me to find out why. I tried to put him off, I always do that. We went to bed, and I still felt horrible about the fact that I am a total failure and will rot in the stuffy basement of this charity forever. I have no patience and I want change now. He told me there was more to life than work. I know. I know I should be glad that I’ve even got a job, and I am. Still, there were tears and upset before bedtime. Irrational, yes.

My partner tried to reassure me that I was not a complete failure, that it didn’t matter that I didn’t get a first at uni, that I could do anything I wanted to, that I had a lot to be proud of. I know all that. But I don’t believe it. I only believe the person inside that tells me I am going to fail at everything I do.

I don’t know why stupid little things are so huge and ruin the entire world for me.

Media power

Do the Sun and the Mirror have such great perceived media power because it’s being conferred on them by our government through their obsessive pouring over headlines and column inches in an attempt to gauge the ‘public’ response to their latest policy?

Tony Blair met Pierce Morgan 56 times during his 11 years as Mirror editor. Apparently he meets Murdoc/The Sun with a comparative frequency. The papers claim to win and loose the elections and policy decisions for the prime minister.

But is it really a relationship between the media and the government or a misperception of government that the media represents the views of the ‘people’. Does Blair scour the headlines because he’s want to know what the media wants him to do, or does he do it because he thinks the information conveyed through them reflects the thinking of the population he cannot poll?

Cannabis, psychosis and case studies

Listening to radio 4 in the car makes me want a dictaphone, and a better memory.

Last night on the way home from work a spokesperson from Rethink, the UK’s largest mental health charity was interviewed in a discussion on calls from the Home Secretary to consider a reclassification of cannabis from C back to B as well as the potential psychological threats cannabis poses.

The background to the discussion lies in the reclassification of cannabis back in January 2004 from a class B to a class C drug. This lowered the severity of punishment that could be afforded for crimes such as possession of the drug. The decision to reclassify the drug was based at the time of information gained from studies into the side and after effects of cannabis use that indicated it posed a lesser threat to health and the community than other drugs sharing the B classification.

However further longitudinal studies in to the effects and after effects of cannabis use since the January 04 reclassification indicate there is a stronger positive link between cannabis use and psychosis than was previously believed, and that the drug could increase the risk of developing psychosis symptoms in people with no prior vulnerability as well as having a more dramatic impact than previously believed, on those who do.

“the researchers said their findings did not support the theory that the link as simply down to people with such a predisposition being more likely to use cannabis, rather than cannabis in some way making psychosis more likely.”
Rethink, the mental health charity asked to give evidence to the Advisory Council on the Mis-use of Drugs which is considering a reclassification, believe that money spent on planning, implementing, retraining enforcement officers and promoting awareness of the reclassification could be better spent on an education campaign as a further reclassification will only add to current confusion over the legal status and will do little to dissuade people from using the drug.

“The government has a responsibility to inform people of the real risks and not hide behind a knee-jerk criminal justice response to what is a mounting health crisis,” Cliff Prior, Chief Executive, Rethink.

I guess I could be classified as a moderately heavy former user, at times more than others, and based on my own personal experiences with the drug I agree that it does pose some psychological threat to the user. During use I have experienced auditory and visual hallucinations, extreme paranoia and depression, and sometimes wonder how much of my current mood instability is attributable to it. I’ll never know. My partner also formerly used cannabis and stopped because he noticed adverse effects it was having on him, he’s still dogged by paranoid phobias.

I have seen and experieinced the way in which cannabis create symptoms commonly associated with psychosis in the user, and can imagine that the affect it has on dopamine uptake in the brain could be maintained and as a result continue to affect the mind while not under the influence.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Quiz geek

I'm a total quiz geek, yet somehow I have resisted filling my blog entirely with quiz results (instead I fill Joel's comments!)

Anyway, Winter directed me to this princess quiz, and I could not resist posting my result.

For I am (Xena) Warrior Princess!



The Warrior Princess
You are strong, courageous, and dynamic, a woman of action. You have an iron will and a sharp tongue. Indecisive, weak, or wishy-washy people test your patience. You tend to grow bored quickly and yearn for excitement.
Role Models: Brunhilde/The Valkyries, Xena
You are most likely to: Lead your people to victory against an army of orcs.
Take this quiz!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Strange but true?

This article about Sheila Jeffreys from the Guardian is great.

I am amazed by facts quoted such as,

"a Home Office paper [claims] that BSE can be transmitted through beauty products because [they] many contain bits of dead animal"

"Breast implants can contain brain, fat, placenta and spleen"

It also describes Jeffreys as citing "one example of a porn actor who sold bits of her genitals to "fans" over the internet after a labiaplasty operation."

Germ warfare

I am getting another fucking cold.


I realised at about midnight last night. My head was hot and full - a classic sign.

Today I have blown myself backwards across the room twice with the force of my sneeze.

I plan to watch tv, drink wine and roast myself over an open fire this evening in a symbolic cleansing process to dispel this germy evil from my person. If this pays off, I will see you tomorrow, if not, I am entitled to another 12.5 days paid sick leave before January.

Oh so very tempting.

If you're looking for a distraction, and we all are, Dreamlines is an online Java application that uses keywords and a google image search to draw a dream based on your search terms.

It is odd.

The above picture is supposedly "germs". However "germ" drew me a picture of a girl in a skirt sat on a park bench with her legs wide open. This was particularly appropriate office viewing. I'm not sure what it had to do with germs either...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Something else jumps into the mixing pot

Buzzing bundle of excited euphoria.
An writer/editor opening has come up.
In my charity.
I am totally capable of doing it.
I can blast that job description to pieces.
My name has already been mentioned among those who make the decisions.

But I am about ten years younger than their ideal candidate.

It's another application to add to the seven already ongoing. But it's added.

I get the feeling I am destined to split in two - the caring psych support first aider and aspiring and ambitious writer/editor. Just when I think I have reached a decision something else jumps into the mixing pot.

Are we subject to modern wartime propaganda?

In a post that will tend towards wild conspiracy theories I have a couple of things to suggest. Please bear in mind these suggestions are based less in reality and on information, and more on thoughtful paranoia.

The first, is it possible the four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams were not kidnapped by Iraqi militia, but rather as part of a plot by the ‘Coalition’ to stir up fear and confusion, once again, among western whites over the Iraqi ‘Other’. The is even more compelling when you factor in that these people are a) Christian, a western, and especially American, ideal, and b) they are doing good work in Iraq, this makes the kidnappers heartless and devoid of morals for they will still victimise those who aim to protect them, yet they are facing execution.

Is it also then possible that the coincidence of this occurring at the same time as American officials are being questioned about secret CIA torture camps across Europe and the unusual flights that have been taking place moving prisoners around these camps, namely from countries where torture is outlawed to countries where torture isn’t. The kidnapping thus serves as a distraction, it increases the division between west and east and further otherises the evil enemy.

It is potentially damaging to consider all the information we are given to be true. We are at war, and war does not exist independent of propaganda.

Old dame on marriage promotion

As heard on Radio 4, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, former High Court judge in charge of the High Court's Family Division has publicly criticised the discontinuation of tax credits/incentives for married couples.

I take it the Dame is a marriage supporter, because she’s worried the loss of a financial incentive to marry or stay married will adversely affect marriage statistics in the UK.

I wonder why people are being rewarded for getting married and staying married in the first place?

Halting this incentive is a positive step towards creating a society where relationships and lifestyle choices beyond heterosexual pairings are equally valued. I am inclined tend to think of tax incentives for married couples as both a ‘reward’ for being married up maintaining the status quo, while penalising couples who cannot or choose not to marry for failing maintain just that.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sex tourism, kids under 6 go free!


Hippie sheds the light on the rather disturbing promotion of a slightly different type of sex tourism. Thomas Cook, 'reputable' tour operator, is offering tours, for the family, of Amsterdam's red light district. Kids under 6 go free.

Brits are encouraged to join the hordes of giggling girls, and Japanese photographers in a 'fun' tour where they can,

"...gawk at the surreal display of scantily clad women who pose in the purply-red glow of their black-lit shop windows. Not unlike a bizarre zoo..."
Yes, just like a zoo, full of animals and everything.
Hippie also provides a sample letter and contact details so you can tell Thomas Cook that they're a pile of irresponsible tossers. Done good.

Man speaks up for woman

Central African Republic Communication Minister Fidel Ngouandjika has banned misogynistic music as it undermines the role of women and contravenes their rights.
As quoted on the BBC news website he said

"It is out of the question that music of misogynist character should be allowed to ride roughshod over questions of equality and the respect of the Central African woman,"
and that
"The Central African woman is a key part of the country's development."

I’m impressed that someone high up in the country’s government felt strongly enough to speak out against music that portrays women as inferior to men, and also that they want to and are prepared to take action to encourage women to be seen as equal to men in society.

However I think that such an outright ban as this is censorship, and that on it’s own this would not effectively tackle the problem. I also tend to think that if something can be banned outright it sets a precedent for something else to be banned outright and that this can lead to tight governmental control, it is tricky to know when and where to draw the line.

If there is an audience for music containing lyrics that undermine and objectify women (and there clearly is because hip-hop and rnb do it constantly) then just preventing them from accessing this although a potentially important step in this situation may fail to do much to address and alter the views that allow it.

I would be eager to support education from a young age that works against negative imagery and objectification, with an aim to fostering the seed to develop into a society that rejects gender inequality as it does inequality among other social and racial groups.

As an aside, I liked this article because it shocked and surprised me so much. I’m beginning to understand I have a terribly skewed impression of African politics, dominated and built mainly upon infamous African leaders such as Mugabe. This news was great because it challenged this.

The fusty stench of a Monday morning office

This morning my office smells like old men.
It's not so great on a Monday to be engulfed in such fustiness.

Also, work appears to be falling apart around me, the powers that reside in big chairs on top floors are restless and have decided to voice opinion. They must think we are not working hard enough, which may be true in some cases (ahem), but please, it's December, we need a holiday, don't take your cranky complaints out on the little people. Take a day off instead.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cosmetic surgery gone good.

Cosmetic surgery and its proponents have a lot to answer for in today’s quick fix botox and boob job society, but the research and innovations that underlie these procedures can do some fine work.

As evidenced by a recent face transplant, the first of it’s kind, that took place in France. There has been a bit of an ethical storm around this one – god knows it can be abused by the same people making a fast buck from ‘mainstream’ cosmetic surgery (shudder), but I don’t think that the assumption someone will ultimately abuse this technology should mean that it shouldn’t be used medically to treat people in cases where it can improve quality of life.

I was disappointed though that some authority decided to knock off Lassie’s best buddy after they saved the life of their owner through a good mauling. A mauling that woke them from an attempted suicide, but wrecked their face in the process (hence the need for the transplant). Them authorities just don’t get it.

Astronomer

I’ve been feeling particularly down in the dumps this past week, partly due to the realisation my chronic back pain means I’m never going to be a paramedic, something I really wanted to do. Partly because I have lost any interest or motivation for my work, partly because I’ve no idea where I want to be heading, partly because I have no idea how to get there and for a great heap of other reasons that I can’t pin down or describe.

Some days it’s been quite bad. Some days it’s been better. Some days I feel like I need to address the negative and harming thoughts and get myself to the doctor. Most days I’m too scared to do that.

I was listening to ‘Late night love’, a particularly dire local radio show, last night while having a shower. They were taking calls from listeners, these calls are usually about failed relationships, and something one caller said struck me. He said,

A little star will always rise somehow

This phrase gave me great support. I know that yesterdays little star was the successful completion of my first aid course. My partner said he was proud of me.

I hope that when I’m feeling hopeless, terrible and frightened I’ll be able remember that phrase and find another little star.

It can be so so hard to see the good among the bad. So I now intend to look for it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

First Aid Her

Whoop. I am a tried and tested first aider. On my way to great things.
7 of those great things are job applications. I REALLY hate job applications.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Meow

Driving too fast.
Poliece men, again.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Tips for the lonely traveller

I'm doing first aid training next week (at last I get to pretend to be a paramedic, I hope they give me green overalls) so won't be in the office to skive off and post far too much.

I will leave you with the following on traveling by train to enjoy while I'm gone.


If you're on the trains this weekend and you've forgotten you pencil and dictaphone (pure detective impersonation joy), useful for making a note of the train times, take a picture; it not only makes you look barmy, but it lasts longer.

Time table

But beware if heading to Leeds, there are bobble headed people at evey turn. Keep a sharp eye out.


Bobble headed lady

That is all.

Call to action

Andrea wrote a great post about rape becoming even more legal . I warn you though, this fired me up something rotten. Moron fucking idiot Judge.

I am going to search now on how to get this @*$?!# struck off.

Update.
Apparently you can't complain about a Judge without seeking 'legal advice'. But you can complain about a Judge's behaviour.

They need the following information:
  • your name, address and telephone number
  • the name of the judge Mr Justice Roderick Evans
  • the court Swansea Crown Court
  • the number of the case (I think they'll know which one you mean...)
  • the date of the hearing 23/11/05
  • specific details about the grounds of your complaint (I have saved a copy of the Daily Mail article incase the link breaks (email me), Google news should have lots too.

You can email it as a word document, or you can fill in their pdf available online.

Please let me know if you do send an email.

Update 2:

The Telegraph have an article on this that may preclude people complaning, apparently the case was abandoned by the prosecution, after which the jury were instructed by Judge Evans to pass a not guilty verdict.

How do I look?

Does this new layout look OK cross browser?

I have spent my entire morning arseing around with the template! It looks like I am working hard, all puzzled and thinky looking, with the occasional typing flurry.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

When you go to the pharmacist...

... do they look at your prescription and try to guess what you’re taking it for? Or do they just know?

I was beginning to think it would never happen, but it has, a tampon post.

I am going hypochondria crazy today. I will not go in to what I could possibly, but will obviously not, be suffering from.

And I am totally forgetful and confused.

Normally I live in a state of terrified vigilance regarding the timing of tampon changes, but today my mind is shot. Have I changed it? Or is it a memory of Monday morning. Has it been seven hours, or is it two. And why am I not bothered…?

On checking my stash, it would seem I am remembering Monday morning.

One small step for man, one giant leap for woman kind

Liberians have democratically elected a female president.

I did not see that one coming! This is huge and amazing - a woman, democratically elected to the highest position in an African country.

I am not well informed on African politics, but I do know Liberia has seen a lot of trouble over the past few decads, the country has been at civil war and the people have been controlled under a dictatorship run by former president Charles Taylor, now indicted. Here's a timeline.

Hopefully this massive break through will mean the start on a new era for Liberia, and hopefully Ms Johnson-Sirleaf (BBC profile) will be able to resist the corruption that runs through African politics.

Imagine, she will have to sit at a table with Mugabe.

More medical breakthroughs to make mums feel guilty

A new study suggests breastfeeding reduces a woman's risk of developing type II diabetes. That each year of breastfeeding means a 15% drop, and the longer you breast feed for, the more the risk is reduced.

I would like to say 'good stuff', learning more about diabetes, and type II which affects 2.5% of the UK population is a good thing. But I am a little worried about how this information will be used.

Like 'breastfeeding is good for babies IQ', is it set to becomes is just another in a barage of pro-breastfeeding propaganda fed to new mothers to guilt them into breastfeeding, even if they don't want to or can't?

Both the new mothers I know can't breastfeed, and one was so messed up about it, so bullied by the midwives to breastfeed no matter what, that her new baby became ill. She kept trying, but the baby wouldn't feed, so she kept trying and trying until the little bab was poorly and had to go back to hospital. This was a direct consequence of the guilt she was made to feel.

Also, the study showed the 'protective' effects of breastfeeding lasted up to 15 years after the last birth. Bear in mind most people do not develop type II diabetes until they are at least over 40. So, once you hit 40 you might get 5-10 years 'protection' from type II diabetes because you breastfeed, but once this wears off, are you just as vulnerable as everyone else? Is it a really a totally pointless excercise?

It's pretty damn obvious that breastfeeding is good for babies, duh, that's what nature designed for them to eat. And it's pretty plain that this can't be terrible for the mother's health (although I am sure there will be cases in which it is). In fact, my noggin will happily accept this because nature is prett clever and wonderful in the way it figures stuff out. But I can see a big red flashing sign saying 'Warning, Pro-breastfeeding propaganda', and I hope this doesn't just become another way for health professionals, and the community, to make mothers who can't or won't breastfeed feel guilty.

I am terrible at Maths, but if you're not, and you can figure out what a 2.5% chance reduced by 15% actually means in terms of chance compared to the general population please tell us, is it a big difference? My bad maths tell me it's not, but then I might have my equation the wrong way round...

Monday, November 21, 2005

A warning for bloggers

Beware bloggers who use blogger. If you save your post as a draft, blogger eats bits of it.
Check and recheck because you'll loose words and links will disappear.

TP
Keeping you informed

Public opinion: Women are to blame

A report published today (Guardian/BBC) by Amnesty International reiterates the skewed public opinion surrounding rape and the blame culture that works towards keeping victims silent.
One in three people believe that women who behave flirtatiously are at least partially responsible if they are raped.
I wonder how can this possibly have happened? How is it even possible for women to be responsible for being attacked? Do these idiots think men are completely unable to control themselves? Do they think that men faced with the slightest hint that they might get some action can't then stop themselves from committing a crime if they don't get a shag?

Do they actually think rape is about sex?
Men are marginally more likely to blame the victim than women, although in the case of drunkenness 5% of women thought a woman would be totally responsible if she were raped, compared to 3% of men.
The figures are totally appauling. And depressing. And insane.

The conviction rate for rape is 5.6% - the lowest ever recorded, with 741 cases resulting in conviction last year.

It's no bloody wonder why when a third of the people in the country think that the woman bears some of the blame. Do people who have their cars stolen of get mugged or beaten get blamed for actions of violence that take place against them? Would the same view be taken for male-male rape, or even female-male rape (as opposed to male-female)?

I doubt it. Women are sex objects, they're around to appeal to men, entice men, flirt with men, shag men. When they don't act as they should and submit, their a cock tease. People seem to have a lot of difficulty in seeing male-female rape as anything other than sex. Male-male of female-male rape is different because it doesn't start from an assumption that women are for men to have sex with.

Thankfully this report has got the publicity it deserves. However it's not going to do a damn bit of good if no one explains why these assumptions are so wrong. Hopefully some long overdue education is to follow.

A recent group of posts by Nick about her own experieinces (starting with this one, look particularly at the comments) on Alas, a blog show just how intrenched this blame culture is across the Western world, and pretty much everywhere else it would seem.

Amp also comments on the Amnesty report.

Death penalty for cop killers

WPC Sharon Beshenivsky was murdered last week during an armed siege of a travel agents. It's been 31 years since a female police officer was killed on duty.

Understandably there's been a fuss, but the reaction has led me to wonder why it seems a police officers life is valued so much more highly than other members of the population. For example the police force have errected boards cordoning off the entire street in which the shooting took place. This is unusual.

As a direct result of Sharon's murder there are calls to reinstate the death penalty for people who kill police officers. I am against the death penalty for many reasons, but I am left wondering, if the death penalty then why just for cop killers?

Surely the murder of a person, no matter what their profession, is horror and should be punished.

Bang bang you're dead.

Gary Glitter (in the news again) could face a firing squad after boning two 12 year old girls.
He's 61.

Kicking it to the paedo's Vietnam style.

Friday, November 18, 2005

On being an obsessive geek with a spending habit.

I used to have this problem with ebay. I would check it every single day, searching for new things to buy. Sometimes I would search and search for hours, looking at different types of things, watching and bidding on items I neither needed nor really wanted. I passed two years at uni doing this. Staying up late on ebay. Not doing work because I was surfing ebay. Missing lectures or setting my alarm to wake me up at two in the morning to bid on something.

I was so cheap though. At least there was that. I used to like getting close off ebay, and still do, because you can get great bargains, and you can get ridicolous old vintage stuff like carpet bags (which I am currenlty lusting after). I would go into shops and say "£10 for a top! What a rip! I can get a whole outfit plus shoes for that on ebay."

When my paypal account maxed out I had to stop buying things. I could never be bothered with the faff of cheques. I did get some great things off ebay, but I also wasted a lot of money.

I think I've replaced this ebay obsession with blogging. I have to read blogs, I can't get on with my work until I've taken my daily walk around the net checking my favourite sites. Once I've got an idea about something I want to blog about can't get on with stuff until it's done.

Aw man - I've just realised it. I've turned into on of those internet geeks who hangs out in chat formus all the time. Except my chat formus are blogs.

I sometimes wonder if I should go cold turkey.

Throw her to the lions


So, this is my 200th post. I’m marking the occasion because I forgot to mention my 100th and I feel like I missed out. This blog’s been going since April 7th, when I announced to the world I would spout ‘a hell of a lot of crap’, I think I’ve lived up to this claim.

In celebration of 8 months and 200 posts clogging up the internet I have the following for your delectation.

My first post, god I’m an idiot.
My first comment, apart from the comments I left for myself on my own posts.

I was so excited when I got my fist comment! When I started out I didn’t think anyone would ever read my blog, so getting a comment was a total thrill. I am so sad.

I still get dead excited now, and I check my emails about 30 times a day for comment notifications! Thanks for leaving comments when you do.

According to my ‘stats counter’ this blog gets about 30 visitors a day now. Wow. Thank you for coming back even though I have a tendency to post inane narcissistic nonsense and get my facts wrong.

TP x
Not a poet

p.s. In writing this I managed to write over my Feminism and Capitalsim post in preparation. Damn it.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Am I conditioned to be late?

Today I was late for work. I was late yesterday. I am late everyday. I was 30 minutes late on Wednesday.

As I drove to work this morning, realising I would be at least 10 minutes late (the reason being I had to scrape the ice off my car) I mused on the topic. Why don’t I get stressed out when I’m late, again?

My musings led me to think about operant conditioning, and Pavlov’s dogs.

Now, for those of you who were fortunate enough not to study psychology at some point in your life, here is a little introduction to Pavlov and his dogs. (I say fortunate because even though I love it, psychology has fucked me up irreparably. I know too much and too little about the internal workings of the mind. It drives me mad. I analyse myself, badly, and come to unsettling conclusions. I think about stuff like classical conditioning when I drive to work. Who does that!?)

Back to the point. Ivan Pavlov was a physiologist who originally intended to study dogs drooling. I don’t know how that went, but in the process he discovered a phenomenon now called operant conditioning.

I’m not sure if Pavlov was a nice man, he was not nice to dogs (they say serial killers start off torturing animals…). He rigged up several different experiments the involved tricking, fooling and electrocuting dogs in some way. The famous study I will describe involved electrocution.

Pavlov constructed a box, in which he put a dog. One half of the floor of the box was conductive, the other half wasn’t. He stood the dog on the conductive half and flipped the switch. The dog jumped off the conductive side onto the non conductive side to avoid the shock. Result: dog learns to move to avoid shock.

As I said, Pavlov did not like dogs, so next he put a wall in the box separating the conductive and non conductive halves. He put the dog on the conductive side and flipped the switch. The dog panics, I imagine it yelped in pain, it tries to get off the conductive surface – but can’t because of the wall.

Pavlov does this a couple of few times cause he’s a sadist.
He then takes the wall away.

Pavlov again puts the dog on the conductive half. He flips the switch. The dog doesn’t move. It stays there, even though it can stop the shock by moving onto the non conductive side. The dog has given up. It has been conditioned not to try and escape because it was shocked so many times in the box with the wall stopping him moving.

Sad story, poor dog, but what’s the point?

The point is, have I been conditioned to stop trying to get to work on time because I never get to work on time? Have I given up hope of this ever happening because no matter what I do it just doesn’t work?

Will that excuse fly at (an inevitable) formal review of my tardiness?

For the real story on Pavlov, and not just what I can remember having done bugger all research, please do not google operant conditioning and find nothing about this study so making it look like I made it up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fooling the fashion types

Success! My rather pathetic excuse for a disguise fooled another member of the public today. He obviously thought I was one of those trendy people who spends a fortune buying their clothes from fancy designer boutiques – so gave me a card promoting such a boutique. No, in fact, he chased me through the shopping centre to give me this card.

It must be the cool aloof (or is that blank and distant) look I get when I’m plotting the best possible way to make the most of my ever so sweet lunch break that sold my disguise.

On reflection, maybe I should not be so proud of my disguise. He may in fact have spotted me for what I am, someone with contempt for fashion and its minions. This gesture of good will and money saving may have been made in pity for my blackened soul; an attempt to draw me back into the 'overpriced for the amount of material it contains' fold.

A narrow escape was provided by pressing matters at the bank.

Found - sugar free lemonade

Great angry post by Gwen. Venting on abortion rights, religious zealots (read her jehovas witness story) and conservative anti-feminists.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Nerve wracking

I have decided to go and see my doctor. Except she is not my doctor, he is on holiday.
She and I do not get on. I worry this will end badly. I am extrememly nervous.

Today's Shocking news.

Gary Glitter is dirty old man.

Women are in the news again, this time they are spending too much!

Apparently women are more in debt than men (although I am yet to find a link - I heard about this on the radio). Expert financialists and media types speculate why this is.

Could it be women are being coerced into buying more things, things they cannot afford because the magazines tell them to? Maybe. Could it be they take out store cards that have ridiculous interest rates because they are not given the full information about that card on which to base their decisions? Maybe it’s that too.

It might even be because when relationships break down women are more often than not left to care for the children. It might also involve the fact that if these women are left to care for the children they cannot work, can only work part time, if they work full time they have to pay extortionate amounts for childcare, or it could be that they can’t get the higher paid jobs because they have responsibilities outside of the office.

Our whole society is geared up for man-woman partnerships, whether you’re raising children or not. If this doesn’t exist, then the system falls down.

Quit work have babies

Recent scaremongering news reports claim women are putting off having kids until they are old (the horror!) and this delay is making it more difficult for them to conceive. This makes them very bad and selfish, or so news reports claim. (Thanks to Gendergeek for the links)

I have not really experienced the direct effect such reports have on women. Until yesterday that is, when during role play in my counselling class my ‘client’ spoke about her ongoing decision making process regarding starting a family, juggling her particularly stressful, competitive and male dominated career and her progressing age. Recent news items and events in her life had brought all her concerns to the front of her mind.

Her particular worry was based on the ‘if you are too old you won’t be able to conceive and you will have terrible trouble and complications’ message in the recent news. She has a career planned out, she knows she had the smarts and ability to be successful, but her occupation and particular work place require total dedication to career, and have a less than favourable maternity leave set up.

The feminist in me fought against the (trainee) counsellor in me during our talk. Counsellors should not advise or pass judgement, nor should they steer the conversation to their own ends – but I wanted to tell her it was a crock. Instead I tried to help her think about the future, what she wants, how she could achieve it and not loose out. I encouraged her to look at the facts behind the scaremongering.

I was thinking about the strange double standard in our society regarding women and childrearing on the way home after my class. On the one hand working women are under pressure to put their career on hold (or abandon it altogether) to have babies, quick!, before it’s to late.
On the other, women having babies ‘too early’ are equally pressured, they have made mistakes that will ruin their lives, they are unfit, they are irresponsible!

Now or later, it would seem we cannot win.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bleurgh.


Public toilets are horrible. They are much much worse when you have to put your hands on the seat and your face in the bowl.

They are especially terrible when you are being sick in them. And on the floor, and on your shoe. The sickness is made worse by having your head next to a tampon bin. The smell alone makes me wretch.

Why have I not gone home yet?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Gender roles and psychoanalysis. Lowering the tone.

For some strange reason I will sit and watch a full episode of ‘Shopaholics’ on BBC3 when I channel surf upon it. For those of you who don’t know, Shopaholics is a reality tv show that attempts to reform people who overspend to the point that they are in thousands of pounds in debt.

Thrilling viewing pleasure, I can imagine you’re thinking, why on earth is she telling me about her viewing habits now? Well, there are two reasons, and they are completely unconnected

1) Gender role reversal

The two person team on Shopaholics is made up of one women and one man, already there is balance. In a shocking reversal of stereotypes and a swooping move to turn the viewers world upside down the woman is the financial advisor whiz and the man is the caring airy fairy emotion centred psychologist type (I am not sure if he’s a proper Psych-o though).

I like this.

2) Psychoanalysis bites

The caring airy fairy emotional psychologist man seems to be a lover of the psychoanalysis. I myself am rather a hater of the psychoanalysis.

We watch him try to pin every single Shopaholic’s untamed spending habits on depression, triggered by some kind of childhood trauma. When he cannot find a childhood trauma he does the psychoanalysts trick of making everything into a trauma thus confusing the poor Shopaholic into thinking they’ve had a terrible life and their childhood was full of sorrow and pain.

Being a psychoanalyst it appears he thinks every problem stems from childhood. Being a psych graduate who likes to short loud her opinions on all kind of topics and who thinks she knows something about some stuff, I think he is wrong. Yes, I do believe childhood and adulthood trauma can trigger psychological distress, but I don’t think that’s the root of all psychological distress, or the root of all the Shopaholics’ particular wild spending habits.

I believe that learned behaviour could play a large part in the development of a Shopaholic and their debt, as well as the development of other psychological problems. I also believe that addressing and challenging this learned behaviour, along with why it is carried out, can do more to help some people than creating childhood traumas. Don’t that fuck you up more?

I do no like this. I shout-a at the man on tv.

Yes, this was a half cocked discussion of gender roles and psychological approaches to treatment all combined to form an odd post that lacked any kind of conclusion. I should probably leave off the blogging for a while, at least until I can write a post based on something other than me and the tv, so I do not anger readers any further with this waffle.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Proud to be a feminist

That’s what the badge I picked up from FEM05 proclaims. Damn straight.



FEM05: A review

The conference was a great success. It ran smoothly, all due to my excellent cloakroom and welcome desk skills (erm…no!), it was interesting, and well subscribed.

My early cloakroom duties meant I missed the opening talk and the first seminar on violence against women, but my other job involved me being in the auditorium so I was able to catch the second seminar on women in the work place, which was excellent.

There were three speakers, Sheila Wild from the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), Rachel Gill from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Vivienne Hayes, Director of the Women's Resource Centre. Of the three, Rebecca Gill stood out the most for me. Her speech not only challenged the gender inequalities in the workplace, but also stirred passion among the audience to arm themselves to fight against it.

In the afternoon I attended a workshop run by Jennifer Drew, Chair of Object, on Challenging the Normalisation of the Sex and Porn Industry. I had high hopes for this seminar which focussed specifically on lads mags, but actually found it provided little new information, lacked organisation/control and failed to offer useful and proactive channels for the anger many women in the seminar felt about the topic.

On reflection some interesting points were raised, particularly that the ASA are self regulating body funded by the publishing industry (so that’s why they’re so ham fisted and reluctant to strike back) and it also exposed the astounding double standards of the ASA in their strong censorship of gay mens magazines such as Gay Times as opposed to lads mags such as Zoo. For example a cover of Gay Times showing a buff man in just his Jockies was censored for being explicit, where as Zoo or Nuts could have a naked woman on the cover with just tassels covering her nipples and her hand covering her muff. It also reminded me that teen girls magazines are highly censored and strictly monitored, but there’s no one checking up on these mags that are being sold to boys as young as 10.

It was also interesting and quite surprising that this workshop filled up the quickest, was over subscribed and appeared to contain no pro-porn feminists.

The final seminar of the day was entitled Feminism, and aimed to argue why feminism is still important. This was another great seminar, with speeches from Prof Jeff Hearn (of Swedish School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland & University of Huddersfield, UK) a Profeminist who spoke on Masculinities and ‘the problem of men’. His was a strange talk, which left me with the impression that he believed men needed to be oppressed in some form to ensure women can become equal. An idea that doesn’t sit very well with me. I didn’t take up the feminist cause to oppress men, and I don’t think that’s the way to gain true equality.

Jenny Westaway of The Fawcett Society also gave a great speech on the paygap and why feminism is as relevant as even and Jo Salmon, National Women's Officer, NUS and feminist and LGBT blogger, spoke on issues relating to students at university and beyond, again mentioning the paygap, and an disgraceful fact that within 5 years of leaving university women can expect to be paid 15% less than their male counterparts when doing exactly the same job!

An interesting discussion started up after the seminar, from which I remember one specific question that struck me. A delegate asked whether equality can ever be achieved in a capitalist society.

It can’t. Capitalism relies on the cheap labour of the underclass to grease its wheels. To achieve equality we need not only to fight for women’s rights, but against capitalism. I will write more on this soon.

All in all FEM05 was a long day, but a good day. And I got a free lunch, a free t-shirt and a lot of inspiration and ideas for this blog and Subtext for my trouble.

My only criticism is that it focussed too heavily on what’s wrong, and not how we can work together to put it right. I think if Subtext can balance these two things, and give readers options how they can work towards equality in their community if not on a larger scale we would be on to a really good thing.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Smiling means you're mad


04Smiling, originally uploaded by mentalnurse.

I am totally buzzing.
Bzzzzzzz.
I can’t sit still.
I can’t do any work.
I can barely think straight.
I am pure energy.

Words zip in and out of my mind.
Cat.
They don’t mean anything.
I can’t control them.
Tea.Coffee.Mouse mat. Pen.Ball.Kite
They’re not useful words.

It’s getting in the way.
My mind.
It’s stopping me thinking.
It’s stopping me working.
I can’t sit still.
Bzzzzzz
I am totally buzzing.

Faster is better.

Dan Osman was an amazing climber (he died some years ago when his rope failed during a jump). He's a hero to many, and his lifestyle was the envy of pretty much every climber.

Here's a video of him speed climbing that I've just found. It's truly amazing.
Watch out for the 'dyno' near the end, where he lets go of the rock completely.

If you're scared of heights, you might not like it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Women in F1

Katherine Legge is set to become only the fourth ever women drive in Formula 1 (of these four only one woman has competed, Giovanna Amati, who failed to qualify for the Spanish Grad Prix in 1992). Legge, the 25 year old racer, won the Toyota Atlantic Championship in the US, has been driving karts and then single-seater racers since aged nine.

I have followed F1 since I was small, I always watched it with my Dad on the weekends, and it’s great to see another woman on the scene. The culture of F1 is very masculine, and among the teams it has been long believed that women couldn’t handle the g-forces in the car on the track, although this has never been scientifically proven.

Despite this unfounded and archaic belief that women are ‘weaker’ than men, Paul Stoddart, of Minardi, makes this refreshing statement:

"We have always said that if a sufficiently talented woman racing driver arrived on the scene, who appeared capable of handling the performance of an F1 car, we would have no hesitation in giving her an opportunity to show what she could do. I believe Katherine has done more than enough to warrant that chance."
This is especially encouraging as until now the main female roles in Formula 1 have been in “marketing, catering, PR or on the grid, wearing a short skirt and a smile while the blokes get on with the serious stuff” and the commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone can get away with saying:

"What I would really like to see happen is to find the right girl, perhaps a black girl with super looks, preferably Jewish or Muslim, who speaks Spanish."

Go Katherine!

It's not grass

Vegetarian animal lovers, the French government have passed a law to protect the history and future of their ‘delicacy’ foie gras. Don’t be fooled by the name, this has nothing to do with grass – it actually describes a pate made for the livers of ducks and geese. Ducks and geese who have been force fed the equivalent (for humans) of 28 pounds of spaghetti per day. Up to half a kilo of grain and fat is force fed to these birds, two or three times a day via pneumatic machines that can dispense it into their mouths in a matter of seconds.

After two or three weeks of this torture the livers of these birds will have swollen to between six and ten times their natural size. The birds cannot even move at this point. They are then killed, and I am only guessing, are most likely to have their livers removed and the rest of the bird disposed of.

Anthony Warrell Thompson (celebrity chef) and Bruce Anderson (food critic) were interviewed on the programme. Warrell Thompson is outspoken against this practice, and as a result will not serve, eat or support manufacture of foie gras, however Anderson claims if the ducks and geese are sentient, they will know their death if for gastronomy and be happy about it! He claims these ducks waddle over to the feeder, delighted to be getting their next helping of fat and grain, forced down their throats at a rate of knots.

I wonder if cannibals stewed him up in a pot he’d be happy about it? After all, it’s for the delights of gastronomy.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Eyebrows, why must we turn on our furry friends

‘Arch Enemy’ on what’s new pussy cat brought back terrible memories of the one time in my life I was foolish enough to mess with my eyebrows.

It must have been six or seven years ago (God that makes me feel so old) when I decided on whim that I felt the need to pluck my eyebrows, for they had been bad, bad hairy monsters for too long.

Being a complete wuss-pot, and stingy to boot, I took myself down to the local beauty college where torture was going for a song. There was no reason for this self inflicted damage, I did not have a ‘big date’, job interview, three page photo spread in Elle magazine; rather the distorted view my little blonde eye protectors were caterpillars crawling across my face. At the time I may have also been slightly brainwashed by far too many sources telling me ‘you can open up your whole face’ by plucking the crap out of it.

Anyway, off I went, coin purse in pocket for my date with beauty and sophistication at the beauty therapy suite attached to the local college (that for reasons of nostalgia I will not shame).

Now, I was not totally unprepared for the experience of pulling single hairs out of my skin, roots and all, as I had tried and failed in the comfort of my own home. However I did truly underestimate the nightmare experience I was about to endure.

I sat on the ‘bed’ waiting for my beautician (although I use that world begrudgingly, she was no beautician, more sadist). I listened to the sounds of the others cooped up in there. With an atmosphere more like a hospital ward, and curtained off areas to set it all off, I was beginning to feel a little less than comfortable. Then my ‘beautician’ appeared, she was no taller than a small pixie and must have been about 12 years old. I lay down on command.

She practiced her best ‘chit-chat’ in an attempt to reassure me; the 5’10” woman she was about to bloodily attack. I tensed at the first brush of her tweezer across my sensitive brow. I had read, never pluck from above the arch – but she did.

As our ‘appointment’ progressed I soon realised the pain I had imagined was nowhere near the reality. Each tweeze was like having my skin pulled away from my bone. Rip, rip, rip as she progressed across my brow. ‘Oh! This one’s getting a bit red now, I’ll swap and do the other side for a bit’. She moved round, not satisfied with paralysing my left side, she now wished to carry out her sadistic ritual on my right. Rip, rip rip. The pain was intense. ‘Oh dear, here, press this against your eyelid, there’s some bleeding.’

Even now the memory of this turns my stomach. What the HELL are you doing to me? I should not be BLEEDING! I lay, still, grinding my teeth, clenching my jaw. I was mad, and in pain, and I had no fucking clue what this 12 year old was doing to my face, yet the ward-like atmosphere, and my personal embarrassment at causing a scene, suppressed any desire to attack.

Finally, over an hour after we started, I was passed a mirror, gingerly. I slowly turned it to look at my reflection, knowing in the pit of my stomach that something was wrong.

The reflection staring back at me resembled a boxer more than the familiar, caterpillar faced, girl. My eyelids were bleeding, and raw and swollen. There were scratches where she had plucked my skin as well as my eyebrow. I got up, I paid, I had no idea what else to do. I left.

My eyelids had scabs on them for weeks. I have never attempted to change them again.

My experience with eyebrow modification may have been a bit extreme, but it was almost worth the pain and scabbiness as it was one of the early triggers that opened my eyes up to my now staple mantra “your having a laugh if you think I’m going to put myself through that in the name of ‘beauty’ “.


As you can see, I have fully recovered. My eyebrows are naturally thin and blonde so you can’t see them anyway – sometimes I wonder what I’m thinking!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Again with the double standards.

The media has been teeming with news on Kate Moss and cocaine this past week

After allegations she’s been caught snorting cocaine have lead to a police investigation, the loss of several big modelling contracts and investigations by social services into her fitness to care for her child I can’t help but stop and wonder why she is getting such flack, while the man on her arm, notorious junkie Pete Dougherty, makes his name from being fucked up.

Why is it he can swan around looking like he’s had the shit kicked out of him after a very long night, while allegations of drug use mean Kate’s life and career are in jeopardy?

It is because:
He’s a man
He doesn’t have ‘responsibilities’
He’s a role model (He’s famous. Look! He’s so rock and roll! He’s a junkie yet he can get a woman like that!)
It’s so rock and roll

Or because:
She’s a woman
She has a child (of course, when you drop a sprog your life should stop, dead)
She’s a role model (thinness is everything, every girl wants to be pretty!)
She should be pure and innocent (because she’s a woman, duh!)

Dougherty may not be overtly praised for his drug use, but it is what he’s most famous for. He’s responsible to himself, no matter what people may believe he is a role model to somebody, and the fact that he gets any attention at all glamorises his drug dependency.

Kate is a role model because the patriarchy needs her to be. Look girls, being thin and pretty will make you rich and popular! She is rich and successful, because she’s pretty. For all her wealth and status she’s still nicely under the control of the dominant sub culture. But no, the patriarchy’s model of girlish perfection is FLAWED! They make her, and evidently, they break her. All is right with the world.

As an aside, how can a ‘super model’ make a good role model – they’re professionally malnourished! How is that aspirational?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Christians are coming and they plan to brainwash our children!

Did anyone catch ‘No sex please we’re teenagers’ on channel 2 last night?

The show chronicles 5 months in the lives of 12 teenagers, and their 2 Christian youth leaders, trying to abstain from any sexual relations and remain celibate. Christians teaching abstinence. From the off I knew this would really get under my skin.

The Romance Academy was the name given to the group where teenagers are encourage to swap "casual sex for old-fashioned courting rituals". This is laughable. Romance has nothing to do with abstinence and vice versa. No cause and effect relationship has even been proven!

The majority of the teens were over 16, the legal age after which you can have sex in this country – so their behaviour is legal and ok in the eyes of the law, however it is important to note that it’s not ok in the eyes of the Church.

The teens seemed to have been picked very carefully. Each person who had lost their virginity described it as a negative experience and not up to the fantasy ideas they had associated with it. It was disappointing for them. This I think gave the youth workers a hook by which to catch onto the teenagers – bad previous experience, it was because you weren’t in love and you weren’t married! So you must be celibate to avoid it happening again.

Educating them before they lost their virginity about the reality of sex as opposed to the movie fairytale interpretation would have eliminated this disappointment which was largely a result of ignorance.

The 12 teenagers were repeatedly told sex before marriage was wrong, but once you were married everything was a-ok. No one tried to explain the reasoning behind this ‘rule’ beyond their personal religious beliefs. No one explained what makes everything different once you’re married. What then makes it ok? To non religious people in this modern society marriage means little more than a piece of paper and some rights to decision making and property. These teens were not religious, so why would that matter to them?

The vow of abstinence seemed to give the at least one of the female teenagers a strength to say no to sex. However I think the small amount of accompanying education that taught saying no was ok and that she had the power to make those decisions enabled that. Perhaps it was the vow told her say no, but was it not the new information behind it that told her how?

The Christian youth workers took the teenagers to America towards the end of the episode, which is where the teachings of abstinence became less about education and more about religion. The narrator commented at this point that the teens were going to be surprised at how closely abstinence and religion were intertwined in the US. I was amazed by this, they were being taught it in the UK be religious youth workers, that seems to me like they’re tied together in the UK too.

Sex is natural. It is the biological destiny of our bodies. It is (or should be) ok that teenagers want to and do have sex. Their bodies develop for that purpose when they do for a reason. Education is required to enable them to make the right choices for themselves emotionally. Abstinence as a rule takes away that choice, and also the requirement of education. Surely if/when a relationship develops into a marriage the same shock and disappointment the teenagers felt when they lost their virginity will just occur later on in life.

Next week they will be ‘offered’ the change to take part in the Silver Ring Thing a ‘cult’ promise to abstain from sex until you’re married. You wear the ring as a symbol of this promise (tacky anyone?) and on your wedding night you give your ring to your partner. Wrong for so many reasons.

Tune in to see if any of the teens have been brainwashed in to it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The sentencing of murderers - should families' experiences have an effect?

In today’s news – families of murder victims are to have their say in court. This is a new idea this is being proposed that will give families of murder victims a chance to have a say in court about how they have been affected.

The BBC quotes some critics as saying this won’t make a difference to sentences – is that really the point of it? Surely there is no measure of grief that people go through when family members or friends are murdered. Surely punishment for crimes should be based on the nature of the crime, not the reactions of people close to the victim. The murder of a person not well loved by their family, i.e. so much so that the family do not personally suffer as much as families that are very close does not make that murder any less of a crime or any less punishable.

Does this not make for a much more subjective judgement that we already have?

If this is an attempt to bring families ‘closure’ and help them play a more active part in the sentencing of prisoners then shouldn’t they be given more information about police work, or a chance to discuss sentencing options and how they would be carried out with a judges representative or something similar.

This sounds very much like another of the half baked ideas our current government is so fond of.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rom coms are terrible

Back in july Pandagon talked about rom coms.

As a general rule I hate rom coms, I can't watch them without engagin my feminist outrage and analysising them down to the ground. For example, how terrible and saccarine was Down with Love. It started off well, independent woman doesn't need a man to be happy, enjoys a good fling, but then speeds dangerously down hill to a dismal conclusion in which original woman is swept off her feet by a (slimy and awful) man, happy ending for all. Not!

One of the best rom coms I have ever seen, if it can even be classified as that, is eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. They're stupid people. They're in bad relationships. They don't care that they hated each other but they're going to give it a go because they love life and experience. It contains need, even obsession, but that isn't the reason the characters come together, and then come together again. Plus I love the other relationships in the film - they're kinda off kilter too. It's a fatasy and it's romantic without being sappy and cliche and predictable.

Plus I guess it kinda taps into sci fi - the very stuff I was dragged up on.

Today Third Sector has provided me with a few things to talk about.

Third Sector home

Dont Shoot!

Firstly a feature piece written by Indira Das-Gupta looks at the way new anti terror laws will affect campaign groups.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act came into force last month, one of it’s specific aims being to quash animal rights activism. However the new laws and powers awarded to the police include a loop hole allowing the bill to be extended to cover other kinds of activism, also know today as terrorism.

Quote from the article
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act might have come into effect only on 1 July, but it has already been applied to circumstances beyond its original remit.

The article states the degrading of civil rights liberties should send a shiver down the spine of the entire [not for profit] sector; however I would go so far as to say everyone.

Fathers 4 justice, a group I am not personally fond of, have been warned their tactics could place them in deadly dangerous positions, and that new guidelines to shoot for the head. The fella who scaled Buckingham palace just under a year ago was merely minutes safe of a fatal shot it has been revealed.

This draws it’s base from the fatal shootings of innocent man Jean Charles de Menezes. I tend to think though that this is rather a leap of backward reasoning. For me this boils down essentially to, if you cause trouble or act up in any way be very afraid. Our officers are armed, dangerous and will shoot you without question. Shouldn’t we be addressing the failure of the security services to provide good accurate information and our ‘highly trained’ police force terror unit’s eager willingness to end lives without trial or justice.

Shouldn’t a shot to the head be the very very last resort, when intelligence conclusively points to a suspect, rather than because they climbed a building they shouldn’t or because one copper was taking a whiz when he was on watch.

It's a womans world, but men are in control

Harking back to my earlier post about gender imbalance in the not for profit sector, Beth Breeze has some interesting observations here.

Beth praises the profusion of women at a recent awards function for excellence in the fundraising sector, comparing her experience as an attendee to that of a mans everyday at work where he is surrounded by male peers. However despite the fact more women work for charities etc 39 of the 50 named influencers at the convention were men, and only 4 women even made the top 25, the highest ranking tenth.

She suggests a some of interesting, and for me quite amusing reasons as to why this may be.
The first being the make ego – that men are more comfortable with praise and being awarded a ‘guru like’ status. I would suggest that while this may sometimes be the case, I do not think it is a male only trait, and that today women are more and more comfortable with being rewarded for their successes. This I feel is more of an excuse for the occurrence than the reason behind it.

Secondly she suggests that men are more comfortable seeking success. I believe everyone wants to be successful at what they do, they may not want to be the best for it, but most people would like to think they do their job well. Perhaps men are more inclined to actively seek work related status than women who may base their self image on non work related things. I for one hate to define myself by what job I do – there is far more to me than pushing pencils about.

More realistically perhaps men find it easier to pursue the top jobs because people believe them to be more capable based on stereotypically make characteristics such as reasoning and decision making skills. Perhaps they do not loose out on promotions and perceived status among their contemporaries because they take time out to have children. This is a big issue still. The head of my department and senior manager gave a friend and colleague of mine a terrible time when she announced she was pregnant. When her yearly appraisal came up she was told there was no point because she would not be here – have she not just spent an entire year working her ass of? Did she not deserve feedback on her work even if she was going to take a few months off? I doubt someone would say this to a man going on sabbatical.

Thirdly Beth suggests women spend less time managing their image than their male colleagues. Excuse me? Did I hear than right? Women are forced to manage their image at all times – we have been doing it so long and so well that no one notices anymore.

Also in this issue

Childline are in a funding crisis
Prisoners receive a ‘radical’ new re-introduction programme to society. They are given advice on housing benefit and problem solving on their own outside the prison. I can astounded to find this is not the norm – no wonder re-offending rates are high, we take someone out of society, remove their independence and ability to make decisions for themselves, for sometimes many years until they become totally reliant on the system, then we turn them out, completely on their own. No wonder people go back to crime if it’s the only thing they know. Insane!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A victory for animal rights

How could you do it?
Eddie & celery, originally uploaded by travelling punk.

In the news today
Yesterday Newchurch guinea pig farm announced that is was ceasing business, a decision attributed in part to animal rights activists campaigning for 6 years for closure of the farm. This is fantastic break through for animal rights, but it is such a shame that it had to come at such a price.

Some might consider me moderate, but I believe that violence is rarely the answer to any question. Some of the tactics used specifically by the pressure group that is being heralded as a main influence in the closure were violent and morally ambiguous (such as stealing the bones of a deceased relative of the farm’s owners). It is a terrible shame that the struggle had to break down to this very base level in an attempt to achieve what is right.

I for one an opposed to animal testing, much of which is completely unnecessary and tortuous. Medical and scientific professionals have banded together to show support for the need for animal testing, but this support refers to crucial medial research into disease and treatment for major conditions – not the cosmetic and detergent research that is a matter of course for many, and that, I believe, the majority of the animals bred for testing are fed into.

I think there is a huge hurdle for the scientific world to overcome before any supporter of animal rights can sympathise with their view. This is to limit at all costs pain, suffering and casual (mis)use of animals. Much medical research is funded by pharmaceutical companies, who wish to keep their findings secret in order to beat the competition to new breakthroughs and medicines, secrecy driven by profits. This secrecy and failure to share findings means that rival companies do their own research, often emulating exactly the same process as one another, for essentially the same result, but multiple lives will be lost in the process, that could have been saved if findings were shared from the beginning.

I also think that many of the supporters of animal research believe that all of this research is going on medical breakthroughs. Granted some of it is, but millions of animals suffer and die every year because of testing toothpaste, cosmetics, shampoo, detergent, deodorant – virtually every chemical substance in the home. These tests are repeated continually for new mascaras, new formulations of non bio powder and countless other new products. Component chemicals, proven in the past to be safe (through animal testing even), are tested and re-tested even though the specific need is not there. Computer modelling now provides a safe, cruelty free, method of understanding potential adverse reactions of chemicals.

I am no expert, and don’t claim to know better than 500 scientists that believe animal testing is absolutely fundamental to medical research, but I do know that there is so much testing going on every day, that animals like the Newchurch guinea pigs are being bred for, that doesn’t need to and shouldn’t happen.

Check out Uncaged for some more information.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Whitby weekend: dracula, morris dancers, mods, seagulls, canons and folky folks.

I went up north this weekend, to Whitby and Robin Hood’s bay on the Yorkshire coast. The weather didn’t look promising before I left, but by-gosh, did it clear up!

We left on the Saturday morning, early at about 10:30. Nothing exciting happened for much of the way, until we reached the Yorkshire Moors. As we pulled over a small hill this was the view that awaited us. Endless heather in full bloom; purple fields as far as you could see.


Purple heather

As we drove through the moors, through the villages and beside the heather it was clear and sunny. All was quaint and lovely in a way that is magnified ten times by sunlight and a light heart associated with a break from the norm.

We arrived in Whitby in the afternoon to find a town full of people. The whole place heaved with activity, activity that was lost on us at first glance, but that was to become a central feature of the weekend.

After spending some time searching for somewhere to park up the car, we gave up and headed south towards Robin Hood’s bay. I have never visited this part of the country before, and frankly didn’t know what to expect, but was truly charmed by the little village. Spiralling through meandering streets down a very steep hill to the sea, Robin Hood’s bay is striking and so quintessentially seaside English.

Robin Hood's Bay

Hidden all the way down by the sea are small galleries and jewellers full of the kind of trinkets and gems you would fill your home with if given half the chance. A little, heaving, chip shop sits snugly up on of the side streets. People spill out of its doors, down the street; queuing for a taste of traditional seaside fare in the most fitting of settings. Queuing all over the place, until a tractor unbelievably negotiates the narrow street with barely in inch to spare either side. People shrink into doorways, flee up stairs and scatter, abandoning their place in the queue; jumping back out again once it has passed.

We took our chips down to the seafront. The tide was in and looked rough as it came up against the shore. We set off along the beach, negotiating the boulders providing a tidal defence, climbing up and them down again to reach the main beach in the hope of finding some fossils the area is so well known for. The tide continued to come in, and before we knew it we were running back, timing each break with the break of the waves.

It was time to hunt for a campsite, it would be so much easier before dark, and so much more difficult after dinner. Up and down the coast, back and forth along strange and twisting roads, driving towards one possible site only to stumble across another. Minimum 3 nights, we were told.

We followed one sign for a campsite and found our way to Boggle Hole, a small cove below Robin Hood’s bay. There was no campsite to be found, although signs did indicate a youth hostel was at the end of a track that no cars were allowed down. We set off along the track going down to the sea, eager to see where it took us. At the bottom we found the small cove and the youth hostel placed right before it. I imagine there are few hostels in such endearing and secluded spots.

As we paused to watch the waves washing into the cove we looked along the cliffs traversing the beach and noticed a family huddled together, leaning out towards the sea. After watching them for a couple of seconds we realised they were scattering someone’s ashes into the swell. Although we were a few hundred feet away I felt quite uncomfortable, almost trespassing on their private moment. This feeling quickly passed when, after scattering the ashes, they promptly followed them by chucking the box and plastic bag used to carry them down in into the sea! That very action seemed like such a contradiction.

Lol and the field

Deciding that this place was far too strange for us, we made a hasty retreat, and the search for a campsite continued.

We drove back north towards Whitby and passed a site on out left, Rigg farm, I think. It was by far the most well designed campsite I have stayed at in ages. The plots were tiered, so the otherwise steeply sloping ground made great platforms that provided some privacy. We also had our own light as we camped in a tourer spot. Once the tent was set up we headed back into Whitby for dinner.

Being vegetarian, and with a taste for the finer things in life, I often find I end up in the posh establishments that don’t aim to attract such rag-tag clientele. Finleys was no exception. It had the atmosphere of a chi-chi wine bar, rustic old tables, but fantastic vegetarian food. We had a huge platter of nachos with foccacia bread and olive oil on the side. Yum!

After dinner we walked around Whitby, looking in shop windows and eventually drifting up over to the beach front. The sunset behind the headland was so many pastel shade of pink, and I wanted to take thousands of pictures to try and capture the subtle changes as the sun set – but it wasn’t to be. My camera spluttered and died of a drained battery, and from that point on the only pictures I could take were snapshots before it switched itself off again.

The waves as they lapped the shore reflected the light of the sky, and every so often seagulls gathered together, their shadows highlighted by the brightness of the reflections on which they were standing.

Whitby beach sunset

see weather station for more

Seagulls spotted by dusk

Looking back up to the cliffs a row of unintentionally industrial looking beach huts lined the wall. Lacking the life and bustle of beach goers during the day, they looked cold and eerie.

Beach huts at Whitby

We wandered back into town, past busy pubs with folk music filtering out through the windows. People walked purposefully from pub to pub with violins and guitars tucked under their arms. We had managed to time our visit to coincide with the Whitby folk festival without realising it.

The next morning we set off into Whitby after packing away the tent. Parking spaces were already filling up with visitors eager to take part in the folk festival and enjoy the brilliant sunshine. Morris dancers, decked in traditional costume danced in the square. A one man band sang MOR hits, accompanied by two howling collie dogs. We mooched around the shops and ventured up to the Abbey, overlooking the bay.


Whitby abbey

Later, after a walk along the beach and a paddle in the sea we came across more Morris dancers, dancing with swords, by the whale bone arch. As we watched their dance a rumble became a thunder and scores of mods on scooters pulled up. They parked their bikes right next to where the dancers were performing, and created a fantastic juxtaposition of old, new, traditional, and retro – a slight that crossed decades, and could only happen on a day like this in a place like this.

Morris dancers




Whitby morris dancers

One of the bikes warranted special attention.

Low rider scooter

As it neared the time we had to leave, we ran down the hill, back to Finleys for some lunch. Over delicious halloumi kebabs with tomato chutney and potato wedges we spotted a new group of Morris dancers, wearing tunics of rags, pheasant feathers and foxes tails in their hats and with blacked faces. Not something you see everyday, certainly not pulling a drum along on a trolley.

Later we saw them dance. I was expecting something wild, and pretty scary – I mean, imagine them! But their dance was as tame and intricate as the rest. The face paint was a throw back to the very origins of Morris dancing, originating in the east, coming from the term Moorish dancing

With the final dance over we were ready to bid our farewells to Whitby.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bunny girls

Gendergeek, Harry, Volsunga and the Guardian have been talking about WHSmith and their sale of Playboy brand merchandise. The pencil cases, note books, pens etc aimed at young girls (who else buys this overpriced crap?) all decorated with the bunny logo, in pastel colours sell like hotcakes apparently.

I tried to comment at Harry's place, but it wasn't having any of it, so since I've written it I'll post it here. It refers to comments on his original post as well as, well, generally.

Selling the playboy brand as a fashion item is not only mainstreaming acceptance of the brand, but also introducing it, as a positive symbol, to a generation of school children. And you can't say it's not school children, as who above 16 goes out the Smiths to stock up on pencil cases and files? Once school is finished you've very little need for them.

Essentially playboy opposes equality in favour of women as mens sexual servants. The way these women are portrayed is by no means hard core porn, but the fact remains that it is for the pleasure of men.

It makes me cringe to see little girls walking around with playboy written across their butts. Shouldn't we be teaching our daughters to value themselves *from an early age* and to shun oppressive symbols of the patriarchy?

Check out the blogs for more.