Friday, November 16, 2012

Musings on a privilege

I have read quite a lot of stuff on the internet written by or about women who get hit on a lot. I particularly like this one explaining what it's like with a metaphor about coffee and evangelists.

I don't get hit on a lot. There was a period in my life when I did get hit on quite a lot by friends and acquaintances. But even then, few or no strangers hit on me. These days all my friends and acquaintances know I'm happily monogamous. So that amounts to pretty much no one hitting on me. Not that I mind, see previous statement about happy monogamy.

On the rare occasions when a stranger does hit on me, I usually take it as a compliment. It puts a spring in my step and a smile on my face. I respond the same way as the stereotypical men who are quoted in these stories expect a woman to. I respond as they claim that they would themselves. In short, I respond as someone who has the privilege of being hit on only rarely.

My first thought on the source of this privilege was that it was a function of not being 'conventionally attractive'. But after seeing this series of gifs of the gorgeous Emma Watson, I realised that that is probably not the entirety of it. 

Looking back, I can't think of a single Irish stranger that has hit on me other than in nightclubs. And, while it is rare for me to get hit on, it is a large enough sample size to see a pattern. I think the main source of this privilege is living in a country where people rarely hit on strangers.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Children's Referendum

This Saturday the Irish people are invited to vote on whether to add the following new article 42a to the Irish Constitution.

Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution
PROPOSED NEW ARTICLE 42A
Children
1. The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children and shall, as far as practicable, by its laws protect and vindicate those rights.
2. 
1° In exceptional cases, where the parents, regardless of their marital status, fail in their duty towards their children to such extent that the safety or welfare of any of their children is likely to be prejudicially affected, the State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means as provided by law, endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.
2° Provision shall be made by law for the adoption of any child where the parents have failed for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law in their duty towards the child and where the best interests of the child so require.
3. Provision shall be made by law for the voluntary placement for adoption and the adoption of any child.
4. 
1° Provision shall be made by law that in the resolution of all proceedings -
i brought by the State, as guardian of the common good, for the purpose of preventing the safety and welfare of any child from being prejudicially affected, or
ii concerning the adoption, guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.
2° Provision shall be made by law for securing, as far as practicable, that in all proceedings referred to in subsection 1° of this section in respect of any child who is capable of forming his or her own views, the views of the child shall be ascertained and given due weight having regard to the age and maturity of the child.

This will put it in the section Fundamental Rights. This new article will also replace the last section of article 42.

Education 
Article 42 
1. The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.  
2. Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State.  
3. 
1° The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or to any particular type of school designated by the State.  
2° The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social.  
4. The State shall provide for free primary education and shall endeavour to supplement and give reasonable aid to private and corporate educational initiative, and, when the public good requires it, provide other educational facilities or institutions with due regard, however, for the rights of parents, especially in the matter of religious and moral formation.  
5. In exceptional cases, where the parents for physical or moral reasons fail in their duty towards their children, the State as guardian of the common good, by appropriate means shall endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.  

You can read the constitution here to see where it fits in if you like. Warning, reading the constitution of Ireland may induce moments of 'it says WHAT?'.


Is the new article perfect? Absolutely not. Does it do everything an article on children's rights should? Nope. Is it better than nothing? In my opinion, yes.


When I sat down tonight to go through all the links I'd picked up various places on this I was leaning slightly to the No side. Probably primarily because the only thing I'd actually read on the subject before now was this argument from someone I know and admire, against. But after an evening of reading and watching, I have now decided to vote Yes. If you still haven't made up your mind, here's a few more of my sources, in no particular order:

A refutation of an argument to vote no. I haven't actually seen the argument it's refuting anywhere, but this is worth reading anyway.

There are a bunch of videos here arguing for a yes vote from the Children's Right's Alliance. They use the same music on all of them, which gets really annoying. This is the only one I found any way convincing.

A not particularly convincing (to me anyway) argument for no.

Some good arguments against, from a 'how do we actually interpret this' point of view. Including the insightful: "They should have been more brief and less prescriptive.  That's what constitutions are about."


To quote another person I know and admire 'I think the amendment does marginally more good than no'.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

In which saoili recommends YouTube subscriptions

There was a time when I used YouTube just for looking things up. If there was a particular song I wanted to listen to, or video of some sort I wanted to watch, I would check to see if it was on YouTube.

And then, one weekend was stuck in front of a computer without much to do, someone linked me to a Philip De Franco video. I laughed my socks off and watched another, and another, and another. And then one of his 'if you like this you should subscribe' messages sank in and I did so. Since then YouTube has been politely informing me every time he uploads and new video, and I watch most of them. To see him at his best it helps if you watch his videos when they're new, like this one currently is. This is actually where I get a lot of my international news. He's not for everyone, but I really enjoy his stuff. If the objectification of women is a real bugbear for you you might want to give him a miss though. 


In one of his videos, he linked to this video by CGP Grey, explaining the difference between Great Britain and the UK, and a bunch more besides.



I highly recommend that one. I also subscribed to his videos and they've never disappointed me. A favourite topic of his is how crazy voting systems are crazy. Which is more amusing to watch than it might sound.

Again at some point, someone linked me to a Vi Hart video. I don't think it was this one, but this is one of my favourites. Anyway, I liked it so much that I subscribed to her too.


If you're at all into maths If you're not completely adverse to maths, I recommend Vi Hart's videos. She shows the beauty and joy of maths in very entertaining ways.

When Ze Frank's original show 'aired' (know of a better term? Let me know in the comments!), my sister followed it, but I didn't. So I had a vague impression of what it was like and I had watched a few of his videos. I always meant to get around to going back to the start and watching the whole thing, but I never did. When he recently started uploading videos again, I subscribed.



I think the best way to describe Ze Frank is probably surreal. His videos are very compelling, often funny, and thought provoking. And weird.


Shortly after they started at the start of the year, someone linked me to a Crash Course video. My husband and I have been watching them pretty religiously as they've come out since. Entertainment and learning in ten to fifteen minute videos, perfect for my attention span? Yes please!


Watching Crash Course has also led me on to SciShow and VlogBrothers videos, by the same guys, of which there are many.

So there you go, that's most of my YouTube habit in a nutshell. These days I mostly use it for learning things in short, entertaining bursts. How about you? Do you use it at all? Do you have any subscriptions to recommend?


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why is it okay to be sexist about children?

Feminism has done a lot already. I can vote, stay working after getting married, wear trousers, study honours maths, and do numerous other things that I couldn't have done a few generations ago. But we still have a lot to do.

I have been reading some classic science fiction, written in the 1950's and set in the distant future. This has really brought home to me just how far we've come. The author didn't foresee feminism. He thought 'okay, women can vote now, that's that over and done with', or something along those lines. Or maybe he didn't think about it at all. But it can be a little jarring to me, reading about women in a distant future that don't even have as much equality as I do.

A lot of what's left to do is subtle. It's changing perceptions and culture. A lot of it is slippery stuff. We've already won the battle, for the most part, of convincing people's conscious brains that being a woman doesn't make a person stupider, less able, less of a person. People don’t think that women should be treated as lesser, just for being women.

But there are still elements where men and women are treated differently. And often those differences come with value judgements, or have negative effects for one gender. For example, being nice is emphasised in our society for women, but less so for men. This contributes to the fact that women are less likely to negotiate than men are. Which in turn contributes to the gender wage gap. Although we have fixed the system so that you can no longer pay a woman less simply because she is a woman; it is perfectly reasonable to pay someone only as much as they negotiate you up to. The net effect is the same.

Nowhere are these differences in the way people are treated more apparent than in the way we treat children.


Why is it considered okay to be sexist about children? Why are children's clothes so completely categorised by gender when, unlike adults, pre-pubescent children are basically all the same shape (well, actually, they're lots of different shapes, but apart from underwear-wise, it's nothing to do with their sex)? Why is it so hard to get pretty children's shoes that cover the top of the child’s foot? Why do Tesco feel the need to sell two different versions of this toy?

Blue sand pit with boy and girl, pink with only girl


What possible positive outcome is there of things being split this way?

The ‘boys just prefer x and girls just prefer y’ thing holds no water. Even if it was true that most boys like certain types of toys and most girls like other sorts of toys, what harm would grouping the toys by type rather than gender do? A little boy who is slightly inclined towards a pink doll is unlikely to go to the girls toys section to get it, but he might go to the dolls aisle. Why, in a society where the average person would be opposed to laws or regulations that discriminate based on gender, is there such a strong cultural imperative to enforce gender roles in children?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review of Discworld Ankh-Morpork

I would probably be blogging, but instead I'm writing an article for The Gazebo, where I write boardgames reviews. So I thought I'd treat you all to a previous review I did. Originally published in The Gazebo, issue 1, here's a review of the excellent Discworld Ankh-Morpork boardgame.




Discworld Ankh-Morpork is a rare breed, a themed boardgame which is both a great game
and true to its theme.

The plot of the game is that the Patrician has disappeared. The players take on secret
personalities, each with a specific objective. For example, Chrysoprase the mobster troll
needs to amass a certain amount of wealth and Commander Vimes wins by stopping
everyone else winning until the cards run out.

The board is a map of Ankh-Morpork. Each area can hold one building, which will give its
owner a specific ability. The more expensive the area, the better the ability. The cards are
familiar characters and locations from the stories. Flavour text is unnecessary because the
personality of the card is exposed through mechanics. Be careful when playing any
magicians, because doing so causes random magic events. Any member of the Watch will
remove trouble from the board, except Nobby Nobbs, who just collects money. Watch out
for someone playing the Fire Brigade on you, they'll burn down your building if you don't
give them money. And so on.  The game is delightfully full of in jokes and references, but is
still great if you don't get any of them.

Some cards are better than others, and some more suited to certain personalities than
others. Moist Von Lipvig might be said to be a bit too powerful, and the Peeled Nuts really get in the way. But unless you're very unlucky, you're likely to have some card in your hand
that will help your cause on any given turn.

Four of the seven possible personalities have the same goal, and playing those guys can get a
little tedious. And I've heard it argued that if everyone plays optimally, Vimes always wins,
but either we don't play optimally, or this just isn't true!

This is a really great game that plays quite differently depending on who’s playing and what
personalities they get.  It's not unusual to finish the game wanting to play again. Thankfully,
since it plays in about an hour, this is often possible.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why I didn't keep my name

I got married in June. I changed my surname to match that of my husband and our son. Some people think that that was not a very feminist thing to do. However, I believe that this decision has to be a personal one in each case. I want to live in a country, and a world, where people who get married can keep the surnames they already have, or take each others', without gender becoming an issue. Since I think gay marriage should be possible, it makes no sense for me to have an opinion on whether a woman should, or should not, take her new husband's name. But in each case it has to be a personal decision based on the circumstances of the people involved.


For the record, here are my reasons.

1) I wasn't very attached to the surname I had.
Around the year I was born there were a lot of little girls given the same first name as me. I got really sick of it. So when I started college, I translated my name into Irish. The easiest way to change your name in this country was one tick away. My student card with my 'new' name got me a bank account. From a bank account you can go pretty much anywhere. The only downside was that there was no 'translate my first name into Irish' box, only a 'translate my name' box. So I translated my whole name, and, up until June, it was my name everywhere.

That surname didn't connect me to my family. I'm the only person I've ever known to use the Irish form. The way Irish 'Mc / Mac' surnames work, unmarried women's surnames begin with 'Ní' or 'Nic', for daughter of, and men's surnames (married or not) begin with 'Mac', for son of. Married women are 'Uí', for wife of. There is, to my knowledge, no way of altering a name to 'husband of'.


2) I wanted to have the same name as my husband, and our son.
When registering a birth in Ireland, you need to choose a surname for the child. It can be the mother's surname, or the father's, or both. (Actually you can choose another surname, but you need some special dispensation). When our son was born we had the impression that my now husband would get more rights if he they had the same surname. I suspect we were misinformed, because I can't find any proof. But it was an impression we had, and certainly a factor in our choice of our son's surname.

Regardless of our reasoning, our son has always had the same surname as his father. I wanted to have that surname too, to share it with them. I suppose we could have looked into changing their names to match mine, including finding some way to deal with the complications mentioned above. But it also gave me a chance to ditch a name I was not, as I said, particularly attached to.


So anyway, that was my choice. And those are my reasons. I am grateful to women who fought for me to have the choice.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When being nice is more important than the rules

The other day I decided to combine my run with a trip to the supermarket for a few things we needed. I probably looked quite odd, arriving at the express checkout sweaty, in running gear, with two cartons of cooking cream, 2kg of strong white flour, a packet of sunflower seeds and a bottle of Yazoo. But the very pleasant young man working the till didn't bat an eyelid. After he had scanned my items, I made two attempts at my PIN and still didn't know it. He was fine with putting my things (half of which I were already in my running bag) to one side while I went outside to call my husband to check if he knew it. He didn't. I came back in and made a third attempt, but got it wrong again, locking my card. My friend behind the till put my groceries aside while I went outside again to call my bank. They told me that if I had locked it at a point of sale I could unlock it at a bank machine. I went back in, explained, and went out to the bank machine outside the shopping center. Where I proceeded to make another two failed attempts at remembering my PIN. I rang the bank again. She told me that she would send a PIN reminder and that if I got it wrong at the machine again my card would be swallowed. I went back inside and explained the situation to the man behind the till. He said, somewhat conspiratorially, that he could try swiping it and see if it would let me sign instead of using my PIN. I was, of course, aware that he was offering to break the rules for me. And I was delighted. He tried a few times, and eventually it accepted the card that way, I signed for and received my groceries. Under normal circumstances, I'd be dismayed at the idea of someone being allowed to sign to use a locked chip and PIN card. But honestly, if someone had gone to the bother of staging all of that in order to steal eleven euro worth of groceries from me? I'd let them have them.

I'm a big fan of rules. But sometimes, being nice is better than following them.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hallelujah

At Electric Picnic I saw the wonderful Niceol Blue play. Her audience was around twelve people, about half of whom seemed to know her personally. But that wasn't unusual for the bit of the festival we were in at the time.

We wandered in while she was playing a song I didn't recognise, possibly one of her own. After a few more she was told she had time for one last song, but it could be a long one. She said she didn't usually play this anymore, but the gods or someone or something was telling her to play it.

She played Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. But she didn't play his version, or Rufus Wainwright's version, or any other version I'd heard before. This was clearly her own take on the song. She had breathed it in and mixed it with herself before sharing it with us. And it was amazing.

I already new the song. I have Rufus Wainwright's version in my Grooveshark playlist, because I like his voice better than Leonard Cohen's. So I joined in, softly, at the chorus. As did everyone else. She told us we sounded great. And we did.

She sang the song as I knew it. And then she sang two more verses, the last two. They're amazing on their own, but if you're not already familiar with them I recommend that you read or listen to them in context. She kinda ruined Rufus Wainwright's version for me, because I now see the whole song as one thing, and I feel like his version misses the point. The verses I knew were just the prelude to the thesis of the last two verses. It's a song about love, sex, faith, and fucked-up-ness, and how they're all the same thing somehow. At least, that is what it now means to me, that's how I see it. And it doesn't really work without them.

And I sincerely hope that, even if it all goes wrong for me too, someday I too will stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My husband sends me dancing

John doesn't dance,
But he sends me dancing.
A few weeks ago he told me
I should dance every week;
I am happy when I do that.
Last week I went dancing,
It was tiring, but good.
Last night, I went again,
And remembered.
Dancing is what makes me say
Fantastic
When someone asks me how I am.
Social dancing
Reminds me who I am.
Looking back, I have almost always been about dancing,
When I could be.
My husband doesn't dance,
But he knows me.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Working a mile and a half from home

TL, DR: Move closer to work. Or get a job closer to home. If you can't do it now, think about it, let the idea sink into the 'someday I will' section of your brain. You can thank me later.


I had always planned to live close to where I worked when I 'grew up'. Shortly after college I settled for a commute of one hour by public transport. I had a dongle that connected my laptop to the internet, so I could spent that time online, reading, or sleeping, as the fancy took me. Since that was a large proportion of the choices I'd make if I had the time at home, I was happy with that. It also meant that despite working in the middle of nowhere, I could live walking distance from town, which was fantastic. It was my first (and only) time living alone and I loved it there.

A few years down the line I found myself pregnant. We had only my income to live on, he was still in college, and my tiny flat couldn't fit a family. We did some calculations and decided we could afford either rent or childcare, but not both. My wonderful sister and brother in law took is in, rent free. Unfortunately, that move took us further from my dream of living close to my workplace, because I couldn't even get public transport. My commute didn't take as long, but I had to get a car.

I commuted for years, half an hour, each way, five days a week. I got through quite a few audio books, listening an hour a day, and convinced myself that made up for the lost time. I struggled with the affect I was having on the environment, but couldn't see another choice. I read this excellent post from Mr Money Moustache and thought 'but he hasn't allowed for my situation'. I decided not to comment to say as much, for fear of getting labled a Complainypants.

After four great years, it became clear that it was time to consider moving out. All three of the children in the three bedroom house were getting bigger and older and space was starting to seem a little tight. My husband was finished college and having no luck in finding a job. So we decided that we would our son out of  creche, my husband would stay at home with him and we'd spend what had been creche money on rent. If my husband does manage to get a job, we can put him back in a creche (there are two in our estate alone) and cover the costs out of my husband's wages.

So anyway, we thought about where we were going to live. We seriously considered staying in the town we had been living in with my sister. It's a fantastic place, I fell in love with the town when I went to college there, and I never fell out of love with it. It would be nice for our son to live close to the people he'd been living with for four years, including his cousin his own age. We also considered moving closer to my husband's grandparents.

And then it hit me. I no longer had any reason NOT to live near where I work. I remembered my statements a long time ago about 'when I grow up'. I remembered Mr Money Moustache's excellent post. And I thought, why not? In fact, if I was getting to work under my own steam, my family could have the car, freeing them up to get out of the house without the hassle of a small child on public transport.


We moved here a few weeks ago. My old commute was half an hour by car. My new commute is half an hour walking, fifteen minutes running or less than ten minutes cycling. Or if I'm not feeling up to it I can call for a lift and it'll take about five minutes. When I walk, I still get the same amount of my book listened to, I need to leave the house no earlier, and I get a half an hour exercise I wasn't getting before. Running to or from work means I get my lunchtimes back. Cycling to work gets me cross training that I wasn't getting before. All of these, even in the rain, tend to be more enjoyable and/or more satisfying than driving. This move has been one of the best things I've ever done.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Somedays

Recently, I almost felt down, thinking of some of the 'someday I will's I haven't done yet. And them I started to remember some of the 'some day I did's:

Learn to dance, properly,
Have a child,
Get married, (though I'll admit, I didn't expect those two in that order)
Run a marathon,
Win Gaelcon's more money than sense award,
Live near enough to where I work to walk,
Get a few hundred hits on a blog post,
Start a pension,
Visit places outside Europe,
Blues dance in America
Walk on a glacier
Jump off a cliff
Jump out of an aeroplane
Live in London
Give birth without drugs
Quit smoking
Knit my son a baby blanket which he still loves, of which I am unreasonably proud
Done a great job so far of bring a mammy.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Full stop. Space. Space?

When I learned to type, I learned that there is a double space after a full stop*.

Years later I read that whether you used a single space or a double space after a full stop was a matter of taste. Since I was in the habit of using double spaces, I continued to do so.  

The other day I read this post about how double spaces are "totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong". The gist of why is 'typographers say so'. I talked to a few people. Apparently, if you're writing something that's getting published, you'll have that second space beaten out of you. I was pretty convinced, but I wanted to do a bit more digging.

The general consensus seems to be that before there were typewriters, there was general pandemonium, and there might be any amount of space after a full stop. But it leaned towards a gap the same size as the one after a word. Then typewriters came along and, due to their limitations, people started using double spaces after full stops. Typing teachers were taught this convention and passed it on to their students and so on, and someplace along the way the real reason was lost, so the convention was taught even after the issue was no longer relevant. Therefore the single space is the one true way to type.

I was going to do a blog post about how converted I was. In fact, I kinda still am, and I'll talk about that in a bit. But first, I wanna talk about this post I found in the process of my digging. It's quite long, and there's a lot in it, including a lot of quotes from sources that pre-date typewriters. But I'll sum it up crudely** as:
- Before there were typewriters, there actually was standard. The standard was that there should be a 'em quadrant', or space the width of the letter m, after a full stop. And that there should be a space one third of that size between words.  Type setting was a manual and highly skilled job and one of the elements of skill involved was knowing when to break that rule and put in more a less space somewhere.
- The people who invented the typefaces in question used and advocated this larger space after a full stop.
- The first people putting in double spaces after full stops were trying to emulate that standard.
- The two apparent main reasons for changing to one space after a full stop were: 
  - As part of a general trend towards reducing the amount of space printing takes up, in order to reduce the cost of printing and publishing.
  - To avoid a possible ugly side effect of automation. If you have double spaces after a full stop; a simplistic type setting automation might put an automatic line break between the two spaces. That would cause a line to start with an empty space. No one wants that. So they were written instead to consider anything more than one space an 'error', anywhere it occurs, and just leave it out.

Right, I said I'd get back to why this is still kinda a post about how converted I am. Having read that second post I will not be the evangelical, newly converted, single-space user that I would have been.  But I will be making an effort to use single spacing myself in future***. Because there is an agreed standard now. And regardless of how long it has been around, or how wrong the people who follow it are about its origins, it is a standard. 

Also, I have come across four attitudes to this:
1) Either is fine, but I prefer two spaces****
2) Either is fine, but I prefer one space
3) One space is right, because typographers say so
4) Two spaces is right, because my typing teacher said so

In cases 1, 2, and 3, I'm better off if I'm using single spaces. And frankly, I'm not all that bothered by what your typing teacher taught you. So me? I'm a single spacer now. But you can do what you like.


*I speak hiberno English. In hiberno English, the punctuation mark that marks the end of a sentence is called a full stop. I am often surprised by how many hits my blog gets from the United States. Assuming that this is more than just one person sitting and hitting refresh a lot, I apologise to my American readers if the whole 'full stop' thing makes this harder to read. 
**I read the post once. And it's late. I apologise for any inaccuracies or misunderstandings here. And if you point them out I'll change them. In the meantime, I'm reasonably sure that's roughly what it says.
***In fact, the last thing I'm going to do before publishing this post is check it for double spaces. 
****The author of the post in question says that how you space is up to you but please stop trying to enforce your view on the world. So he probably fits in there.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Try not to tell people they don't exist.

The internet, and the world in general, would be a much better place if people stopped trying to tell other people that they don't exist. Next time someone tells you something about themselves and your automatic response is 'there's no such thing as people who...', consider, instead, 'I didn't know there were people who...'.

There are, in no particular order:
bisexuals
married monogamous bisexuals
polyamorous people who are in happy, healthy, stable, loving relationships
agnostics
moral atheists
people whose real gender does not match their physical gender
people with no gender at all
people whose gender changes
people who are not sexually attracted to anyone
attractive female geeks
women who like to be wolf whistled at
good people in every category people
ass hats in every category of people
feminists who think, feel, say, and are pretty much anything
many countless types, categories, and groups of people I've never heard of our considered the possibility of the existence of. I hope that, if and when I do meet them, I'll remember not to tell them they don't exist.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Another retelling of Cinderella

Ella was always very close to her father, and her mother's death only made her more so. When he fell in love again, she was delighted for him, though she wasn't overly fond of his new love, and her two daughters were positively unpleasant to her. Ella's family had always been poor, and through skill and dedication to her art, she had become an accomplished seamstress. Her clothes were always nicer than what others were wearing, and you could never tell to look at her that she was poor.

It wasn't long after her father's second marriage that her step mother and step sisters' polite requests for ever more elaborate clothes became demands.

When her father passed away, she was utterly desolate. Her step mother's demands worsened, and extended. Soon Ella was cooking and cleaning for the whole household, as well as dressmaking. She was barely given enough food to eat, let alone any money for materials. Her own clothes became ragged. The house was heated only by fires, and she was often covered in soot and dust from cleaning them. Her step-family started to call her 'Cinder-Ella' and the name stuck.


Cinderella dreamt about getting out of the house, making her own way in the world. She thought maybe that she could start a business making dresses. But she had no idea how to go about getting the capital needed to start out.


The King was getting impatient. He wanted to have a grandchild to continue his legacy. He worried what would happen to the country if there was no one to take over from his only son. But his only son, Prince Mark, wasn't interested. He was waiting for the right woman before getting married and he wasn't budging. He insisted that she existed, but he just had to wait to meet her.

The King, being quite literal minded, decided that what he needed to do was to organise for Prince Mark to meet the right woman. He had already tried introducing him to every Princess from nearby lands, but Mark had said that none of them were 'the one'. The King said that he would be happy enough for the Prince to marry a commoner if he wanted to, so long as he married someone. So he arranged for a series of balls, one for each region of the Kingdom. Each time he sent out an invitation to every household in the region. All eligible women were invited.



Cinderella read the invitation when it arrived of course. She thought it was ridiculous really. How could one party be enough to decide who you would marry? Especially when you met hundreds or thousands of people at it? Oh, but it would be great to have the materials to make a dress worthy of a Prince's ball. But mostly, she didn't want to go. Until her step mother said she couldn't. Cinderella was a teenager. Of course she wanted to go then. All eligible women were invited. She was just as eligible as her step sisters! She worked on so many plans to get to the ball, but got nowhere.

Knowing that many people would see them, she poured her heart into her step sisters' dresses. Her step mother was sure that the Prince would want to marry one of them, so she allowed no time or expense to be spared. Cinderella managed to sneak enough time and materials from the dresses to make one for herself. She still had no shoes, and no way to get to the ball (which was a long way off). But if she did get there, she knew all eyes would be on her. She hoped that she might get an investor for her dress making business that way. Hoped beyond hope.

The night before the ball, Cinderella woke up to the sound of fluttering at her window. Concerned and surprised she went to it. There was a fairy. Convinced she was dreaming, since she didn't believe in fairies, she opened the window anyway. The fairy introduced herself as Cinderella's fairy godmother. Cinderella's mother had prevented a logger from cutting down a fairy ring of trees and the fairies had promised her that, in return, they would provide one favour to her first born child when needed. The fairy was going to provide her with shoes and a carriage and make sure that her step-mother slept through. But, she was a fairy and there had to be conditions. The shoes would be a perfect fit, moulded to her feet on the inside and beautiful beyond compare on the outside. They would fit perfectly for walking and dancing. But Cinderella could not run. If she ran, the shoes would fall off. And the carriage would come to her house at seven to bring her to the ball. But it would leave the ball at midnight, and if she didn't catch it she'd be stranded.

The next morning Cinderella woke up, wondering at her strange dream. Then she looked at her dress where it was hanging, so sorry that she would not have the chance to wear it and show it off, but optimistic that the dresses she made for her sisters might still be her ticket out. And then she looked below the dress. And there were two shoes, beautiful beyond compare and perfect for her dress. She tried them on and found they fit like gloves.

Sure enough, at seven o’clock, her step sisters had left, her step mother was fast asleep, and the carriage waited outside.


The palace was even more splendid than usual, made up for the ball. Cinderella barely noticed the people staring at her beautiful dress as she took it all in. But they were. She enjoyed the music and the food. She ate as much as she could, which wasn't much, the rich food disagreed with her stomach, sick from having so little for so long. She had just finished a fourth conversation with another woman who said she loved her dresses, and would buy them if she could, but didn't have the money to invest in the business, when she finally saw the prince. "My goodness, but he is handsome." She thought. Then she laughed at herself. He had thousands of women to choose from, why would he choose her? Why would she even want him to, she hadn't even talked to him!

The King had said that each woman at the ball must have one dance with the prince. Cinderella was nervous despite herself. But Prince Mark was polite, and pleasant, and kind. During their three minute dance, they talked. Something clicked between them. Sometimes, in life, you just know for certain that someone's personality matches yours, works with yours, even after a few minutes. Cinderella was sorry when the time was over; she really wanted to keep talking to him. But she knew that he had so many other women to dance with, so she said goodbye and walked away.

A few hours later, Cinderella was sitting alone in a corner. She was torn. She had had a lot of interest in her dresses, but no backers for her business. She was more convinced than ever that she could make it, if only she could get a start. But she was no closer to that start than before. Her thoughts also kept creeping back to the conversation with the prince, try as she might to stop them. Had he felt it too? That connection, that sureness that they should be, at least, friends? He was probably just being nice. He probably had to be nice.

She looked at her watch, it was five to twelve! The carriage was at least ten minutes away. She walked as fast as she could, even dancing a bit to the music to move faster, but she knew it was no use, she couldn't get there without running. So she lifted the ends of her dress and ran. But just as the fairy predicted, her shoes loosened and came off. But she kept running, barefoot, and caught the carriage just in time.


Meanwhile, Prince Mark was telling his father that he could call off the rest of the balls. He had met her. The woman he would marry. He just needed to find her again in this room full of women, so that he could ask her to be his wife. Then he saw her, Cinderella, lift her dress and run. He saw her shoes come off. He ran after her, begging her to stop. But she was very fit from all the house work, and he never caught her. He went back to where her shoes were and picked them up. He looked inside and saw that they were moulded to a particular pair of feet. He kept the shoes.

The next day two groups of the Kings' men were touring the region with the shoes, asking all women who were at the ball to try them on, searching for the owner. Cinderella's step mother came to the door, heard the story and invited them in. Cinderella watched from the shadows as her step sisters tried on the shoe, which clearly didn't fit them. The men were about to leave when she accidentally dropped a pot, making a noise. Despite her step mother's insistence that she wasn't at the ball, the men persuaded Cinderella to try on the shoe, which of course fit perfectly. Leaving her bewildered step-family behind, she got into the carriage and was brought back to the palace.


The prince ran out and hugged her when she arrived. She was delighted to see him and hugged him back. Then he went down on one knee and opened a small jewellery box, showing a beautiful, elaborate ring and asked her to marry him. Her eyes and mouth wide, Cinderella failed to say anything for several minutes. When she did speak, she was almost crying. "I'm, I'm sorry. I'm so honoured. But I can't agree to spend my life with someone I've just met. It's not a no, but maybe a not yet?" Prince Mark looked crestfallen, but said he understood. He asked her what she wanted, and if she would get to know him better and consider it in the future. She explained her plans for her business and he insisted that he would invest, exclaiming how impressed he was with her work, no strings attached. He did request that she give him the opportunity to get to know her better.

Three years later, Ella's dresses were the talk of the Kingdom. Even her step-mother and step sisters, who now appreciated just how hard all that housework was, were buying them. She had more than paid back the capital that her only investor, Prince Mark, had given her, and owned her own business outright. Their first impressions had proved correct, that first connection had built into a beautiful friendship and then a love affair. Three years exactly after the first time, he asked her again to marry him. This time she said yes, they got married, the King got his grandchildren, and they all lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Simon Pegg and cosplayers

Simon Pegg, someone who I very much admire, tweeted a link to a picture of lots of people cosplaying Princess Leia saying

"Also, I've got a thing about cosplay girls. They're like zombie stormtroopers, a glorious combination of beloved things. #SDCC"
and
"*makes noise like Homer Simpson thinking of donuts* twitpic.com/a8myof"

@cnstoker was bothered by this and responded to him on twitter about it.  He replied that he found this boring and referred to her tweets as 'late '90s political correctness'.

You can read the exchange, with some more input from @cnstoker, here.


The first place I saw it was in this tweet:

Turns out @simonpegg can be a bit of an unenlightened jerk > storify.com/cnstoker/cospl… (IMO similar to gizmodo.com/5915473/asus-h…)

    — Emma Jenkin (@indeedemma) July 17, 2012


Which she goes on to explain a bit more here.



I think that @indeedemma was possibly going a bit far with her original choice of words, but then, she agrees with that herself.

I think that @cnstoker started off confrontational, instead of trying to open a discussion.  She assumed that by appreciating how sexy these women looked, he was assuming that they weren't real geeks.  In fact, his tweet about them combining beloved things implies to me that he was appreciating them for their geekiness as well as the way they looked.

But I can see where both of them are coming from.


I think that he should have been more wary before comparing the attraction he felt towards these women to the desire for food in front of his literal millions of followers.  I think that he shouldn't assume that all people who dress in sexy cosplay actively want to be sexualised.  And I think that before dismissing the reaction of someone who does not have a privilege* that he does have as 'boring' or 'political correctness**', he should consider that his privilege may be making it hard for him to see their point of view clearly.  I hope, maybe, he's learned some of that from this.


I also think that people who attacked @cnstoker and @indeedemma on twitter as a result of this are twits.  There are too many twits on the internet, but that's a subject for another post.



* I've encountered the problem before where 'having a privilege' is meant and/or taken as an insult, rather like 'being entitled'.  That's not what I mean here.  No one can help having a particular priviledge.  Priviledge isn't a problem, it's how you deal with it that can be.
**  For the record, wikipedia confirms my impression that by the '90s, political correctness was mostly a 'pejorative term by the political right', rather than actually something anyone would aspire to.  There is a huge difference between objecting to people saying things that will offend a lot of people, and wanting people to say, or not say, particularly things in some arbitrary fashion.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Burzynski and the Irish Times

I have just sent the following email to newsdesk@irishtimes.com


To Whom it May Concern,

I'm writing in relation to your article, which I found here: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0714/1224320064507.html entitled "Appeal for ill child to travel to US for pioneering treatment".

You state in the article that the clinic 'provides advanced alternative cancer treatments'.  You refer to it in the title and elsewhere in the article as 'pioneering treatment'.  This 'treatment' has been in clinical trials since 1984, and there is, as yet, no evidence that it is a useful treatment of any illness.  In a 2004 paper 'Alternative Cancer Cures: “Unproven” or “Disproven”?' Dr. Andrew Vickers PhD describes it as disproven.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved these products for the treatment of any disease. 

I understand the desire to find hope in a case like this.  But the Burzynski Clinic (which you have also, incidentally, misspelled in the article) does nothing more than sell people that hope, for vast sums of money, with nothing of any substance behind it.

Regards,
<My real name>





I will update this post with a reply, if I get one.

For more on Burzynski , I recommend following zenbuffy at her blog and/or on twitter @zenbuffy.


<EDITED TO ADD:> 

No reply, but the article has been taken down.  Screenshot available here, if you're curious.  Wouldn't it be nice if they put a short apology, or explanation, in place of the original though?






Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Please vote. I suggest 'no'.


I've done a lot of reading about the TREATY ON STABILITY, COORDINATION AND GOVERNANCE IN THE ECONOMIC AND MONETARY UNION BETWEEN Treaty Establishing the European Stability Mechanism.  I have to admit, that I went in to most of that reading already having decided to vote no.  But nothing has come close to making me change my mind on that.

I am voting no because:

  • The main mechanism the treaty offers for correcting the problem of countries not having enough money to cover their expenses is to fine them.  Which hardly seems logical.
  • This treaty being in place wouldn't have stopped any of the foolishness that got our country into this position in the first place.  It's dealing with countries spending money they don't have.  We were spending money that we did have.  But we said we'd keep spending it.  And now we don't have it any more.  Ireland is like someone who treated a once or twice off bonus as a raise and signed up for a bunch of new expenses they couldn't really afford.
  • Voting no doesn't stop us getting a further bail out, if we need one.  It just stops us getting a bail out from the fund which the treaty sets up.
  • The rest of the European Union would be affected too badly by Ireland defaulting on its debt to refuse us a second bail out just to 'punish' us for voting no.
  • A yes vote is irrevocable, a no vote is not.
  • Structural deficit is not properly defined, but it is referred to.  That allows space for it to be redefined in some way we don't like and/or didn't anticipate.
  • I am not voting for anything that gives anyone immunity to legal proceedings.  No.  (Articles 32 and 35)  - EDIT - This is not the right treaty.  Our Government signed this one without asking us in July 2011.  Thanks guys.
  • The long list of muppets and loonies arguing for a no vote isn't actually a good reason to vote yes.  Funny as that idea might be.
  • 'Vote yes because they'll only ask us again anyway' is a bad approach.  That is a really bad reason to vote yes.  And it's actually more likely that our Government will accept a no for this than it was for Nice and Lisbon.  Unlike in those cases, this treaty CAN go ahead without us.
  • The turmoil in Europe and the many countries saying 'hm, maybe we should fix this a bit before we ratify it' was completely ignored by the Government.  The treaty should have been postponed.
  • The only sort of stability I can see this treaty bringing in is stability in the sh*t state we're currently in.  Where mostly only people who have computer science degrees have jobs, everyone my age has lost a bunch of friends to emigration, everyone is paying more tax than they'd like or expect to and is never sure when they're going to start paying more tax and where they're expected to get the money to pay it.  You know, like this.



If you don't want to take my word for it, here's a bunch of stuff I watched or read:
A video explaining what the treaty is.
A little bit 'yes' biased, from my point of view anyway.  But about as close to neutral as possible.

Reasons to vote no, Ireland in Europe perspective.
A good read, author clearly doesn't like Angela Merkel much.

Arguing for a yes vote.
Mostly seems to be saying 'ah here lads, we need to do this stuff anyway, so let's not rock the boat and p*ss off potential allies'.  Calls Angela Merkel by her first name.

Why VinB is voting no.
Why VinB is voting no.  His reasons are not my reasons.  But they're not bad reasons.

"Treaty a mere clause in contract yet unseen."
Many great nuggets, including the idea that 'we have no choice' is not a reason to vote yes, it's a reason to spoil your vote.

Someone I know and really respect in real life.
Arguing that we should vote yes to take more power from the Irish Government, because the Irish people can't elect a good one

I don't normally find myself agreeing with Libertas.
But this is well worth reading.


And a few I didn't, but heard were good:
'Guide to the Fiscal Treaty'

ESM Treaty & Stability (Fiscal Compact) Treaty
Seriously long and detailed.  Has been summed up as 'we'd be off our heads to vote Yes, but we're going to anyway. FFS.'


Aaaand last but not least:
The text of the treaty itself. the treaty itself.
Edited on 31/05/2012 to fix typos.
Edited again on 31/05/2012 because the treaty with the scary article 32 is a different one that the Government already signed without asking us.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Why should I have to WORK for everything?! It's like saying I don't deserve it!"

I've been reading articles on coding horror about the things like the fact that a lot of 'programmers' can't actually program and there is evidence that whether or not you can 'get' programming, whether or not it's something that you'll be able to do, is innate.  Either you have the ability to be a programmer, or you don't.

I find this incredibly frustrating.  I know I have that innate ability.  In school we had a computers class, which was mostly just playing with Logo, run by a teacher who also happened to be the career guidance teacher.  After that class she said, of me, 'she's a programmer' and told me I should do it for a living.  I did Computer Science and Software Engineering in college and loved it.  The only thing I could see myself having enjoyed more in college is pure maths.  I aced programming and logic courses all the way through.  I got a first class honours degree.  I left college wanting to write code, wanting to be a computer programmer. 

But I tried, and failed, to get a job writing code.  I had a few QA jobs that I was told would lead to writing code, but they never did.  I was aware that I had a lot to learn.  The sort of stuff that you can only learn on the job and/or by doing.  I am bad at learning by doing.  Not as bad as I was back then, but still bad.  If someone is willing to teach me, I am a sponge, I learn easilly and well.  But no one was.  No one was willing to hire me and teach me the things that my degree didn't and possibly couldn't.  I had ability, but I lacked skill.

I know that it's experience coding that counts and that it doesn't have to be in a professional setting.  I know that getting involved with an open source project and writing good code there, or just writing something myself and getting it out there, could lead to a programming job.  But I never seem to have the time, or the energy, or the brain space to do it.  Probably the most frustrating thing about this is knowing that I could fix it, but I haven't.  I know it's not reasonable or fair to expect to have a coding job served up to me on a plate.  But it's still frustrating that there are people out there programming badly for a living, when I'm so sure I could do it well.  And, well, see the title of this post.


Friday, May 11, 2012

What do you point your furniture at?

I don't have a TV. As it happens, in my current situation, I couldn't have one if I did want to, which I don't.

I do watch TV shows.  We have a Netflix account, before which we had a BBC iPlayer account. We own and borrow box sets.  But at home when I watch a television show, I am doing it on purpose.  And that, to me, is the key difference between me without a TV and me with a TV.

When I'm visiting somewhere that has one I find we end up watching the least bad thing on. The same thing used to happen to me when I had a TV. You have a time in your schedule, consciously or not, that says 'TV'. You fill that time with whatever is on. You pay various companies money so that you can have a large variety of choices. And you choose whatever is best from there. Not watching TV at all only becomes an option when really isn't anything on that's even passable.  Given the tendency of tired people who've been making decisions all day to take the easiest path, that bar can be pretty low.

To put it another way, for me, the difference between not owning and owning a TV is the difference between watching Firefly, or The Blue Planet, or Avatar and 'watching TV'. There are plenty of shows I like. But I don't like TV.  I don't like half the stuff I end up watching in other people's houses.  Yeah, a lot of the time I get into it and I keep watching because I want to find out what happens or whatever.  But that's not the same as coming out the other end really glad I spent that time that way.  And I don't like ads.  There are a now, I understand, many ways to record it and/or fast forward ads.  But I haven't come across one that's less effort than streaming the show or watching it from a disk in the first place.  Not to mention the price.

On the other hand, to mention the price, Mr. Money Mustache covers it quite nicely.  TV is expensive.  Organising it so 'the best thing on' is actually decent costs even more money.  Way more money than an account with Netflix or BBC iPlayer or something.  Heck, for the amount of money most people spend on cable, or satellite or whatever, I could more than afford to buy pretty much all of the shows I actually want to watch in box sets.  

I get the question 'what do you you point your furniture at?' from people I tell that I don't have a TV.  We point our furniture at tables.  Then we put things on the tables.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Something I heard


Something I heard

We’ve had a few high tides lately
And a recent storm has left the normally placid and fairly stationary shingle
Spread out down the sand somewhat.

I’ve always loved water,
Particularly the sea,
Particularly beaches,
But most of all; this beach, my beach.

I’ve rarely seen a tide so high.
So tonight I went exploring,
My beach,
But different.

And that is when I heard it.
The sound of a wave pulling back through loose shingle.
Not much, maybe,
But that pulling, tumbling, clacking, clapping, laughing, calling sound,
Resonated with a joy string in my heart
And left it ringing.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Rambling thoughts on being an extrovert alone in public.

I like being out, alone, in places that have other people in them. I realised the other night that that is because of my extroversion, not despite it. I like short, reasonably meaningless, but pleasant interactions with strangers.

For example, that evening I had one conversation about queues, two about directions (the first one didn't really sink in) and one about the weather (I mean seriously, sleet and hail a week after that sunshine? Madness.).

I understand that these interactions would have been at best dull and and worst intimidating for many of my introverted friends, family and acquaintances. But I really enjoy them. I like those simple sharings of humanity. I know I make a good first impression in person, probably partly because I know it.  Talking to people usually makes us both smile and I like to think I've increased the sum total of happiness in the world, just a fraction.

Obviously, it's not as straightforward as 'I am an extrovert, therefore this is good'.  While I am one of the most extroverted people I know, no one is right at either end of that scale.  I also enjoy being alone in otherwise empty places, and time inside my own head.  But obviously, my reasons for that are different.

Friday, March 16, 2012

'A bit more than enough to get by' is relative, but $75,000 is not.

This is a great article on The Overjustification Effect.  And it demonstrates something that I've come across recently while listening to the audio book of Ben Goldacre's 'Bad Science'.  It's important that people reporting on studies, or any kind of science, mention figures.

The article refers to some research by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That research appears to show that above a certain threshold, money doesn't make you happier.  I’ve come across references to that research before, where that threshold was reported, as it is in the You Are Not So Smart post above, as basically 'just a bit more than enough to get by'.  But last time there wasn't a number attached.  This time there is; $75,000 a year, just over €57,000, according to  xe.com today.

My jaw dropped when I read this figure.  That's a lot of money!  More so in 2008 and 2009 when the study was completed.  I earn a good bit less than that.  I struggle to get by sometimes, but that's because I'm supporting a family on one income.  If I were single and childless, or if both of us were earning what I earn, I'd be laughing.  I'm reasonably paid for what I do, in what is considered a high paying industry.  I admit that I don’t live in America, where the study was completed, but the cost of living is certainly pretty comparable.  I’m not sure that it’s reasonable to think that, for most people, $75,000 a year is ‘just a bit more than enough to get by’.  It sounds, to me, like substantially more than enough to get by.  It sounds like enough to make you a little bit rich.  

I've heard before that more money doesn't make you happy once you have enough to get you out of poverty.  Now that I see the figures involved, I'd interpret it more as 'more money doesn't make you happy once you've hit a little bit rich', which isn't nearly as interesting or surprising.

My best guess is that to the people writing these articles, $75,000 doesn't sound like a lot of money.  But that must be relative to their own incomes.  And that's why you need to put numbers, statistics or other details of what you're reporting on in what you're writing; because 'a bit more than enough to get by' is relative, but $75,000 is not.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Male tailored (spa) treatment package

Ok, I get it, you run a Spa. You think ‘most of our clients are women, how do we go about getting more men in?’ I’m with you so far. In fact, trying to share what you do, which you clearly think is a good thing, with both genders equally? Well that’s practically feminist logic! But then you think ‘Well, what do we do that men might like? Certainly not facials, exfoliation or moisturising. Because, after all, men can’t have skin that needs to be treated, unlike women.’ And you start to loose me, particularly when you get to ‘More like relaxing and de-stressing. Because men get stressed, unlike women.’ Um. I could let all of this go, right up until ‘And, just in case there is any doubt, we’ll offer two separate packages, and we’ll use the word male all over the one we’re aiming at men.’ So you get this:
Today's Deal: THE IDEAL VALENTINES GIFT FOR HIM: €49 instead of €110 for a Male Relaxing and De-Stressing Treatment! Includes a deep tissue massage and face, neck and scalp treatment at the award winning White Pebble Spa in Stillorgan – SAVE 55%

“Indulge that special person in your life to a relaxing and de-stressing treatment! The White Pebble Spa have designed an exclusive Men’s package based on the most popular Men’s Treatments at the White Pebble Day Spa. The treatment begins with a deep tissue back massage using essential oils that will help to melt away those aches and pains. This is followed with a face, neck and scalp treatment tailor made to suit each individual client
The White Pebble Spa is ideally located at the 4* Stillorgan Park Hotel where there is ample free parking. The contemporary styled Spa uses the exclusive range of French YonKa products and have been awarded YonKa Day Spa of the Year 2012. The White Pebble Spa has a total of seven treatment rooms with an additional relaxation area, excellent changing facilities for the ultimate in relaxation.”


Which is, of course, completely different and separate to this:
Today's Deal: THE IDEAL VALENTINES GIFT FOR HER: €49 instead of €110 for a luxury Daffodil Package (Full Body Exfoliation, Deep Moisturisation and Yonka Express Facial) at the award winning White Pebble Spa in Stillorgan – SAVE 55%
“This fantastic spa package ensure you’ll blossom into spring! The luxurious Daffodil package begins with an Invigorating Full Body Exfoliation. The body is then deeply moisturised using a ginseng and comfrey rich body milk, after which a brightening YonKa express facial will give tired, dry, winter skin a luminous spring glow!
The White Pebble Spa is ideally located at the 4* Stillorgan Park Hotel where there is ample free parking. The contemporary styled Spa uses the exclusive range of French YonKa products and have been awarded YonKa Day Spa of the Year 2012. The White Pebble Spa has a total of seven treatment rooms with an additional relaxation area, excellent changing facilities for the ultimate in relaxation.
Bring a friend, Sister or Mother and enjoy the tranquil surroundings of the White Pebble Day Spa!”


You might notice how while the large text at the top advertises both as valentines gifts, the smaller text in the one for ‘males’ is aimed at the person buying it for him, but the text under ‘Valentine’s gift for her’ is aimed at, well, her.

Now, this is primarily a feminist rant. This is about the fact that I would much prefer a 'deep tissue massage and face, neck and scalp treatment' to a 'Full Body Exfoliation, Deep Moisturisation and Yonka Express Facial'. I’ve had a full body exfoliation before, it really wasn’t my thing. Deep tissue massages, on the other hand, I can really get behind. But I’m going to let my linguistics nerd out just for a second. ‘Male’? Really? Not ‘for men’? Is my three year old son or my sister-in-law’s guide dog considered more suited to this than I am? Or are you just being as careless with language as you are with equality?

Allow me to draw your attention to the fact that the second package doesn’t mention women anywhere other than mentioning that it would make an ideal gift 'for her'. There are women in the picture. But they’re small and not the focus of the ad, unlike the one for ‘MALES’. There is no mention of women, or females, anywhere. I guess women is just the default audience of spas. That makes it ok, right?

I honestly believe that the majority of the lack of equality between genders that I come across (in my life, I realise it is not like this everywhere) is caused by people who genuinely don’t realise they’re doing it. With that in mind I emailed them.

“Hi there,

I'd just like to ask a quick question about your naming scheme for the
treatments offered in the Groupscheme. Is the 'Male Relaxing and
De-Stressing Treatment' available to women as well? If not, why not?
If so, why not call it 'Relaxing and De-Stressing Treatment'?
Certainly 'a deep tissue massage and face, neck and scalp treatment'
sounds far more appealing to me, a woman, than 'Full Body Exfoliation,
Deep Moisturisation and Yonka Express Facial'. And certainly more
worth the money. I can understand if you wanted to mention in the
text somewhere that it was suitable for men, because spa treatments
are more usually associated with women. But I think that this goes
too far.

As a feminist, I am determined to call out sexism wherever I see it.
Please stop a moment and question your assumptions.

Regards,
Sorcha”

I’ll update this if/when they reply.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Vibram Five Fingers

Having made a massive two attempts at running completely barefoot I decided to bite the bullet and buy a pair of Vibram Five Fingers I couldn't really afford.  The guy in the shop said that I should get used to walking in them before I run in them.  And the instructions that come with them say to try them for an hour or two at a time at first.  So I sat in work with them on for a few hours on Tuesday and a few more hours today (Thursday).  Today I also walked to the car and drove home in them. 

One of the main reasons I got them is that running barefoot is really cold.  When I went outside in them today I thought ‘my feet are really cold’.  And then I remembered how cold my feet were running barefoot and realised that no, actually, my feet weren’t really cold.  The tops of my feet were cold, but nothing on running barefoot.  And the soles weren’t cold at all.  So that’s a win.

I also cheated a little and ran some of the way to the car.  I’m sure it’s largely psychological, but it felt really good.  It felt like I could go really fast and be happy to do so.  I am looking forward to this being the way I run.