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.