Sunday, 25 December 2011

Catch Up

Alrighty, during generalised fretting and getting distracted I got halfway through writing this handful of posts and I've only just now got my arse into gear to finish and post them.

And I figured seeing as I bothered to finish them I should bother to point them out.

So, yeah, I wrote some things.

26 January - Iron Maiden!

05 March - Soundwave!

13 March - Take No Prisoners, Show No Mercy, Leave No Witnesses

19 March - Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dash Dash Dash Crash

2 April - One Or The Other Or The Other Or The Other

10 April - Where To? Where From?

16 April - That's SIR Terry Pratchett, I'll Have You Know

24 April - The Enormity Of Everything

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Secret Family Recipes!

This Tuesday I drove to my aunt's house where she, my cousin and I started assembling one of our family's traditional Christmas dishes.

It's one of those 'nobody ever writes anything down' sort of sets of recipes where you just have to keep turning up year after year to help until you start to remember how it's done.

You know how it's supposed to taste because you've been eating it every year for your entire life but it takes a while to work out how to get it right.

It probably would be easier to write everything down but where would be the fun in that?

All the rolling, blending, chopping, tying, stirring, tasting and seasoning is fun all by itself.

All the yelling at each other over the sounds of the kitchen, asking for consensus, making everybody else taste things and give advice and take turns at things is fun too.

This year only a few of us could make it for one reason or the other but it's different every year.

There's no set time, there's no set procedure.

Every year is different but every year is the same.

The recipes are secret not because it's that different from what anybody else can do.

There are probably plenty of similar recipes in cookbooks and being handed around by other families, amongst themselves and out to friends.

It's secret because then it's just something we do together.

It's secret because then it's special.

It's slightly different and it's all ours and it's just a hell of a day and damn if it isn't delicious every single year.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Health Update

It's been a bit over a year since my body betrayed me with all of my various composite bits staging seemingly independent but actually interconnected rebellions, and since then we seem to have arrived at a truce.

As a result of my immune system and other various bits agreeing to end the strike combined with the healthy eating habits and sheer amount of walking I've incorporated into my life, I feel pretty normal for the most part and consider myself to be exceptionally lucky.

Recently, I've had another round of blood tests and the news is decent.

Various scores that were up and shouldn't have been are continuing to head downwards in an orderly fashion, and are almost where they should be, and the most important score has taken a step in the right direction so I'm no longer right on the borderline where relapsing into an inflammatory condition seemed like a question of which way the wind was blowing.

Of course, the most important score is the one my doctor has warned me may never completely recover. She described it as being like a marker that shows something has happened to me, much like an X-ray will show a healed fracture.
As a result, barring some Wolverine-esque recovery it looks like I'm a teetotaller and decaf drinker.

I'd be more upset about that if I hadn't decided right from the start to treat the situation as if it were permanent.
That way if I was wrong, rejoicing!
And if I was right, well then, I'd be used to it.

I don't have to miss coffee and tea too much as I've found some tasty decaf versions and have a whole range of hippy-dippy herbal teas available to me.

I know carob in no way replaces chocolate but I've always had a bit of a Stockholm Syndrome for carob thanks to my primary school canteen and I've recently discovered that you can get caffeine-free chocolate, no idea what it tastes like yet but we'll see.

So the big'un is alcohol. Alcohol-removed wine smells like wine but mostly tastes like grape juice so it's not the replacement that decaf coffee/tea is. I can cook with alcohol as when you cook things properly the alcohol evaporates off leaving you with tasty foods.
Of course, considering I didn't start drinking until I was 19, I was late to the game and leaving it just makes it feel like a phase I was going through :-P

I do miss alcohol and chocolate but thanks to my scare I have absolutely NO TEMPTATION to have any because if I got sick again I'd probably get RSI kicking myself at which point I would hire other people to kick me. Forever.

A lucky feature of my weird memory and my adaptive personality is that it's been a year since my last drink and I just about can't remember what being drunk/tipsy feels like. I have this vague impression but it just doesn't seem to actually have anything to do with me. Booze still smells delicious but as far as taste* and effect go it's almost like thinking about something that I've read about but never experienced.
Thanks, weirdo brain! That's actually a huge help!

I'm going to keep taking care of myself and appreciate every day that I feel good because worrying about what might happen later down the track is just a waste of what I have now and I am certainly not about to take that for granted.

All in all, things are going well, so hooray for that!

*As long as I don't actually stick my nose in a glass or bottle of something and take a big sniff at which point my tastebuds start excitedly explaining how they remember it tasting and getting nostalgic.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Ricochet's Random List Of Slightly Unconventional Men That She Thinks Are Tasty

Disclaimer #1: The men themselves may not be unconventional but they're not dudes I routinely notice other people phwoar-ing over. I know many of these fellows have their admirers but they're usually not as vocal as the admirers of others. So here I celebrate them.

Disclaimer #2: Yes, this is a pictures instead of words post.

Disclaimer #3: Despite the use of the word 'tasty' I still respect them as unique and complex human beings. Who are tasty.

Richard E Grant

Matthew Willig

Oliver Platt

Sean Astin

Grant Imahara

Stewart Wright

Alan Rickman

Richard Ayoade

Martin Freeman

Andy Serkis

Paul McGillion

Seth Green

Peter Lindgren

Clancy Brown

Danny John Jules

OK, I'm going to stop now before Google Images takes out a restraining order against me.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


Thanks to a friend's copious collection of DVDs, I have been watching a tonne of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage series.

Apart from my new-found certainty that I would like to roll about on his hair like a cat in a basket of towels*, I am also becoming more than a little obsessed with the idea of growing my own vegetables and one day having a passing acquaintance with small-scale sustainable farming.

The last time I blogged about gardening, I got super excited, hopefully not in a drunken-toff-getting-maudlin-about-the-romance-of-the-honest-peasant-carving-a-living-from-the-land fashion.

Since then I've managed to keep my parents' front and back yards in fairly good nick** but I haven't made much in the way of progress when it comes to developments or additions.

Some of this is due to having been sick and sorry for myself at the start of the year, then having been paranoid about getting sick again and feeling sorry for myself about that***, then spending a fair amount of the time I did devote to the task raking up dog hair**** and slowly sifting through the dog area.

The dog area is a fenced off portion of the yard that we sectioned off specifically to keep the dogs in when we had company that wasn't used to dogs, when we had to have the garage doors open to the outside world, or when the sheets flapping on the line begin to look too tempting to twitchy doggy brains.

We haven't been able to use the dog area for dog storage for some years now as our back fence neighbour has two tiny dogs who go out of their gourds with excitement if our dogs are that close to their shared fence and will bark until they're hoarse.

As a result the dog area has, over the course of the years, been filled up with trimmings of the lawn and shrub variety.
Tidying that out without being eaten by spiders, coming across any snakes or disturbing any cute but hissy blue-tongued lizards has been slow going but now that it's almost done I've hit a roadblock in my plans.

Given that the now non-dog area is safe from any digging or frolicking damage I had been hoping it may be perfect for growing some of those sweet sweet veg that I've been dreaming about.

Unfortunately I've since discovered that the handful of large Ironbarks growing in the area excrete a jerky selfish chemical that suppresses the growth of anything else in their vicinity.

Fortunately I discovered this before I'd dug out a bed, lavishly fertilised it and started sowing seeds.

So now the challenge is twofold: secure an area of the yard with some kind of futuristic fencing technology and manage to grow something within those confines.

We have an empty garden bed in prime position with lots of sunshine and a modest amount of space for a starter patch and that is where I am fixing my sights, my completely-inexperienced-at-either-building-fences-or-planting-things-that-then-continue-to-live sights.

I think the fence building montage is likely to involve me, some wooden posts, a mallet, some pliers, some chicken wire, a lot of sweat and dirt and will probably be accompanied with a banjo soundtrack that highlights the level of skill and grace with which I will accomplish this task.

Loosening the soil, testing its pH, and digging in the fertiliser and mulch shouldn't be too technical but I'm sure I'll manage to overcomplicate it in my earnest fashion.

And all the way through this planning process the recurring thoughts that keeps bouncing up in my brain are:
  • These will be useful skills to have when the zombies rise.
  • Never hurts to know how to use a mallet and stake in case of vampires.
  • Hugh would be a handy person to know during either apocalypse because he can grow his own food, preserve it, joint his own meat, brew his own booze and I think he'd go at an attacker with a hammer if he had to.

I'm trying to think serious thoughts about nutrients and environmentally friendly bug-deterrents and water schedules but I just keep coming back to how the ability to build fences to keep zombies out and the ability to grow food to feed myself and the band of survivors I fetch up with will be useful and marketable skills.

And how having a bit of practice swinging a mallet and driving a stake into things will not hurt in the event I ever have to waste any vampires.

I guess I should start looking into the shelf-life of seeds and the feasibility of stockpiling them as I don't want to leave it to chance that I'll be able to learn how to collect and preserve my own seeds before The Rising.

I reckon the stakes will stay fresh so I can just pop some of those aside.

In amongst all this secondary planning I hope I manage to remember to plant the vegetables...

*Not in a pervy way, just a purely platonic frolic in his bountiful curls.

**I don't have a garden at the flat and Mum and Dad are more than happy to let me go nuts in theirs.

***I actually didn't spend that much time feeling sorry for myself, it just mysteriously reared its head when I thought about gardening.

****Good GRAVY, Labradors! Where does it all COME from!?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Farewell Sweetheart

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to my beautiful cat Pickles.

He was 14 years old, he'd had a good long life and he'd just gotten to a point where an age-related health issue went from making him a bit weak and wobbly to seriously impacting on his quality of life.

It was really hard to let him go but it would have been selfish and wrong of us not to give him that peace.

It's going to take a long time for me to get used to the fact he isn't here any more, he's been with me for exactly half of my life and was such a wonderful companion and friend and such a nutter.

He would perch on your shoulder like a parrot and happily sit there all day whilst you walked around doing other things.
If you bent over to put something down or pick something up he would scoot down to lie in the small of your back whilst you were hunched over and would refuse to get off when you tried to stand up again.

He would chase a torch light across the floor and up walls all evening if you let him, only stopping to regain his balance and shoot you a dirty look when he remembered that you were in charge of the maddeningly erratic moving spot.

He would scramble up ladders and loudly proclaim dominion over all he could see from up there. When he scrambled up onto clothes horses he didn't have time to proclaim dominion as he was busy trying to spread his weight out so the whole thing wouldn't tip over.

He would let you hug him like a teddy bear when you were feeling down and the moment you were feeling better he would wash your nose until you let him go so he could reclaim his feline dignity.

He had the loudest purr I have ever heard and he would lie on your chest purring so hard that if you breathed in at the right time it felt like he was purring right into your heart.

If you couldn't find him it was a good bet that he had somehow wormed his way into the linen closet and was industriously shedding hair all over everything during a luxurious nap. No matter how you tried to secure the closet door he managed to wiggle it open, his skills as a door opener applying equally to sliding doors and clasp doors. He had a good try at turn-handle doors but eventually after years of danging from doorknobs by his front paws, he conceded defeat.

If you gave him a cardboard box he would be happy for months. He'd jump on top of it. Fall off it. Roll past it. Scoot around inside it. Disembowel it. Attack people and other pets from within it. And eventually when you took it away because it was falling apart, he would sit where it had been and stare at you until you found him another one.

Goodbye Pickles, I'll miss you.

1998 - 2011

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Joyful Reunion

In the glory days of my library visits when I almost lived there, I one day found an audiobook version of The Long Dark Tea-time Of The Soul by Douglas Adams READ by Douglas Adams.

It took some blinking and some reordering of brain cells to fully appreciate this amazing fact.

A book read by the author who wrote it, in the fashion they intended it to be received.

I borrowed it.

I listened to it.

I fell in love with it.

Douglas Adams' excitable and energetic delivery was eternally engaging*.

I borrowed it over and over again until the cassettes were so badly damaged by the dodgier cassette players of the other people who occasionally managed to borrow them, that the library had to retire them.

Then for years that was it.

I was neither old enough nor internet savvy enough to go searching for them online**, they were no longer available in the stores and I had no other avenues of pursuit.

In recent years I tried the stores again with no result, tried the online retailers for the first time and found the only version readily available was being sold for over $100 and seemed to be a copy that somebody had made from recording their own set of cassettes onto blank CDs which they were the selling online.

I gave up.

And then the other day my brother found not only Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul but also Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency online and downloaded them for me.

For this he was elevated to the rank of Best Brother! Favourite Brother! Amazing Brother!***

For me listening to that audiobook is like stepping into the past. Into quiet hours after midnight when the only person awake was me, listening with the volume turned down low, eating bowls of air-popped popcorn because the smell of hot oil popped popcorn would have woken everyone up.

It gives me a wonderful sense of calm and deja vu.

Listening to it again for the first time in years made me feel wonderfully happy but also somewhat guilty.

I'm not that into downloading things from the internets.
I don't mind watching something once if I've missed it on TV or in order to decide whether I like it or not but if I do like it then I want to own it.
I like to pay money for the things I like and to own them properly in lovely complete formats.

Now as hard as I tried when it came to Douglas Adams and his marvellous reading voice, I couldn't make this a reality, I could not find a legitimate copy anywhere. So I made peace with this by making a donation to Save the Rhino which I'm sure Douglas would have been happy with. I don't know who is in charge of his estate these days but given his passion for conservation I think he'd agree that his executor/heir could do without the royalties if it meant helping rhinos****.

And now with my conscience soothed I can get back to listening to this wonderful, weird man rambling gloriously, letting the chaos of his brain spill out into the world, and regretting all the things he never had time to write but being grateful for the things he did have time to give us.

*Whee! Alliteration!

**Many of the online retailers we rely on today may not have existed or at least existed in their current efficient incarnation at that stage anyway.

***Heh, he's my only brother.

****I would find it wonderfully amusing if the benefactors of his estate were wildlife charities in any case.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Imagination Imbalance

I've never been afraid of thunderstorms.

As children my siblings and I would sit at the window and watch violent electrical storms tear the sky apart with blinding spidery fingers of light and covered our ears to dampen the inevitable deafening thunderclaps that would follow.
When we could hear again we'd give measured and considered scores out of 10 for each display before shrieking with delight at the next one.

I would imagine what our neighbourhood would look like if enough rain fell to turn the streets into canals and allow us to travel about in dinghies, kayaks and speed boats instead of cars and of course we would act this scenario out for whole days at a time.

One day we were running around playing 'what we would do if everything was flooded' and some well-meaning adult decided to give us a firm but kind talk on the realities of flooding - the property destroyed, lives lost, lives ruined - and ask us if maybe we weren't being a bit insensitive?

We stared at them, stared at each other and ran off to keep playing but the fun had been taken out of the game for that day.

The thing is, now that I'm older I know that having water up to your ceiling would not be great for the neighbourhood but we weren't earnestly suggesting it should happen, random Reality McBuzzkillington!

Why not point out to me that the carpet is not really lava and that if a volcano really did erupt, those of us not killed by the superheated cloud of poisonous gases would probably be asphyxiated by the falling ash?

Why not run up to the kids playing sword fights and explain to them that being stabbed with a sword would really not be all that great? Or that the person you say can't stab you any more because their arm has 'fallen off' probably has leprosy and how gross real leprosy would be?

Kids use play to interact with each other, to learn to understand the world and to develop the parts of their brains that will eventually help them to imagine the lives of other people in an empathetic and responsible fashion.

Don't tell them it isn't cool to pretend you've just disemboweled somebody; they're not desensitised to disembowelling, they're just mucking around.

There are some exceptions to this thinking.
For instance, I can see how people in a community who actually have regular access to guns and who treat these weapons with caution and respect would discourage letting kids 'shoot' each other just in case they ever got hold of a real gun and didn't realise that when they shot their friends with that gun they wouldn't be getting up to swap places.

But the kids that pretend that their towns are flooded aren't going to go bust the dam for funsies.

The kids who pretend to chop off people's heads aren't going to start a skull collection.

The kids who pretend to be monsters who are eating you aren't going to become cannibals.

Just let the little nutters play, age brings context but youth is for imagination.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Whole Package

Following on vaguely from last week's themes of marriage and equality, today I would like to talk about why I believe Rick O'Connell and Evelyn Carnahan (later Carnahan O'Connell*) from The Mummy and The Mummy Returns** are cinema's most perfect couple***.

I'll start off by admitting that I love these movies so I might be a bit biased. I essentially wrote every single one of my university essays with these two movies on a constant loop in the background to keep me from flipping out or leaving the room.
But despite my almost Stockholm Syndrome level of regard for them as entertainment, I maintain that the points I am about to make stand on their own.

Why Rick O'Connell And Evelyn Carnahan/Carnahan O'Connell Are Cinema's Most Perfect Couple by Ricochet, age 28

  • They're Not Perfect And They Get To Stay That Way.
    When we meet Rick and Evie, Rick is a jaded and disillusioned soldier who doesn't have the best of luck and Evie despite her academic achievements hasn't achieved much success or regard and is somewhat unworldly. This is a fairly normal introduction to people involved in a romantic movie storyline but what isn't entirely normal is their continuing characterisation. They each have their own areas of knowledge, skill, insecurity and ignorance that form their personalities and their relationship isn't shown to artificially fix or negate these the way a lot of movie relationships seem to. They get to keep their imperfections as well as their strengths and therefore get to keep their personalities. They're not 'fixed' now that they're in a relationship, they're just in a relationship.

  • They Are Self-possessed Enough To Stand By Their Own Convictions And Don't Back Down Or Defer To Each Other During Arguments.
    They don't always agree and when they disagree they do so vocally and confidently. There's no hushing up to avoid trouble or condescending false agreements, they stick to their guns. For the purposes of the movie this was done for drama and comedic effect but in terms of a relationship it is a healthy airing of emotions and shows that they are individuals who are determined to have their say. There is compromise and sometimes they agree to follow one person's suggestion rather than the other but there's none of the simpering or suppressed fuming that is usually put forward as normal in heterosexual relationships.

  • They Aren't Afraid To Show Fear, Vulnerability Or Doubt In Front Of Each Other.
    When things are going completely bonkers-nuts-bad, Rick feels free to look completely terrified and admit that he has no idea if they're going to live, there's no putting on a false front of bravado in order to impress anyone. When their son is in danger the second movie they both show a completely understandable level of fear and concern. This allows an emotional honesty and a deep connection that gives them the opportunity to support each other. When Rick grieves in The Mummy Returns it feels very natural and honest.

  • They Respect Each Others' Individual Strengths And Don't Harp On At Each Other About Individual Failings.
    Rick is good at general jumping around, heavy lifting, navigation, reading situations and getting them out of tough spots. Evie is good at translating, problem solving, archaeology, thinking under pressure and prioritising. They're both good at other things but I'm having a nice lazy generalise here. The point is that they each play to their strengths and don't start yelling at each other when the other person doesn't share the same level of competency in every situation. They complement each other and in The Mummy Returns we get to see that they have managed to build a life together that allows them both to do what they're best at, neither of them having to give that up in order to allow the other partner to follow their interests.

  • They Maintain A Passionate And Romantic Love For Each Other Even After Years Of Marriage And Raising A Child.
    One 'trick' I really despise in movies is the '1st movie has a happy ending, 2nd movie opens up with bickering and recriminations and over the course of the 2nd movie they learn to love each other again' ploy. It's annoying, it feels lazy and it teaches kids that no matter how much you love a person, you'll eventually end up screeching at and belittling each other. They didn't pull that trick with The Mummy Returns and I will always love them for it. After at least 10 years of marriage Rick and Evie still love each other and still treat each other as individuals. They don't swap between being people who are in love to parents when they interact with their child, they are those same people who just happen to be parents. It's the most hope-inspiring depiction of having a relationship and a family and still getting to have a distinct identity that I have seen in mainstream cinema.
    True getting to have athletic battles with intruders/aggressors interspersed with public and genuine declarations of affection add a bit of spice and aren't everyone's experience (except in The Incredibles, also a great movie) but their dynamic remains good.

  • They're Ready To Risk Everything To Save And Protect Each Other And Their Family.
    Rick and Evie have their priorities all sorted out. They travel, they have work they love, they have an insanely nice house and a slightly annoying precocious son. And when someone tries to threaten their family, they don't give a damn that their nice house has been shot to shit, they drop everything and they rally together to protect their loved ones.

  • They Don't Selfishly Protect Their Knowledge/Specialities.
    In The Mummy Returns we get to see Evie kicking fairly impressive amounts of ass and wielding a sword in a fairly competent fashion because Rick cares enough about her to teach her how to defend herself. We get to see Rick involved in and more knowledgeable about Egyptian lore, history and archaeology because Evie has shared her passion with him. Instead of keeping their strengths to themselves so that they have 'one thing that they're good at that the other person needs them for' (something that can unfortunately be seen in far too many real life relationships), they offer their skills and knowledge to each other in order to expand each others' experience and capabilities.

  • They're Able To Function Separately And Confidently Without Each Other When They Need To.
    When they have to split up to get things done they do, no questions asked. They don't shilly-shally, there's no screaming or wailing or hesitating. They aren't co-dependent and that is something that is rarely explicitly demonstrated. Even though they ultimately are trying to reunite, they aren't scrambling to get back together because they are freaking out or can't manage without each other which seems to be the case with many action or action/comedy or even romantic/comedy couples.

  • They Love Each Other.
    This might seem a fairly 'well duh' thing to say but the amount of movie couples who only seem to get together as wish fulfilment for the audience, whose only points of compatibility are artificially created by the crisis they've endured together are the ones who end up bickering in the sequel. Rick and Evie have inherent similarities and compatibilities that are demonstrated before they met and which are brought out during their shared crisis. And once the crisis is gone, they still love each other. I mean look at them!
    Who rubs their nose on somebody else's nose if they don't love them!?
    Nobody that's who.

I rest my case!

*See? Even Evie kept her original surname in her name after marriage!

**I don't include The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor because I have thus far refused to watch it. No Rachel Weisz, no my eyeballs. You're probably lovely, Maria Bello, but you are not Evie!

***In the category of movies that I've seen and can remember right now at this very minute.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

What's In A Name?

One of my friends got married last year and much to my surprise, she changed her name.

She's a fairly independent person, her family is very important to her and after her father died she made a big point of commemorating their shared history.

As a result, I was not expecting her to be the kind of person who would giddily start referring to herself as 'Mrs [My Husband's Name]'.

Now another friend in our circle is engaged and is planning to change her name as well.

I have trouble wrapping my brain around the whole thing.

My name is... my name.

It's part of who I am.

I've never really thought about getting rid of it and the fact that other people are so comfortable with doing so confuses me.

I know it's traditional and a lot of people say it's 'easier' but still, unless I was marrying someone with a super awesome surname like Wartooth* I don't think I could do it. And even then I think it would be an addition and not a substitution.

There are all sorts of arguments that usually get trotted out at this point about "If you hyphenate your surnames then what is the next generation supposed to do? How long do you want these names to get?"
At least two women I know who are in long term de facto relationships that have produced children have kept their own surnames** but all their children share surnames with the fathers, not their mothers.

Though it may be unfair, to me that sort of thing always smacks of appeasement.

"Of course they're your children! See? They have your surname!"
"Look! We have children together and they have your surname! They're like little yous! Please don't leave us..."
"I know how you like to own things and now it's like you have your own franchise..."

What with DNA testing it's no longer necessary to use surnames to denote who put what into whom and what the result was and having the kids share the father's surname alone really feels like a matter of possession.

If the children shared the mother's surname alone it would also feel a bit odd as the children are no more just a product of their mother than they are just a product of their father***.

If a same-sex couple get married and adopt a child or give birth to a child, people would acknowledge that a decision would have to be reached that was acceptable to both spouses/parents****. Why do people find it so hard to apply this recognition of individual identity to hetero couples?

There has to be some kind of sensible solution. Or even multiple sensible solutions.

I know stepping away from the 'tradition' means having to think a bit harder about things and have - what might be for some couples - some rather involved and fraught discussions but there are plenty of options:
  • both keeping your own names with no alterations
  • one or both of you adding an extra surname either in front of or behind your own
  • adopting a shared hyphenated surname
  • making a composite surname from components of both or your originals surnames
  • making up a badass new surname that has nothing in common with either of your previous surnames
If you choose to take your spouse's name because your own family was an abusive or neglectful train wreck and you want nothing more to do with the name, go nuts.

If your parents named you something cruel and unusual that turns your full name into a little sentence that has made your life hell, I can definitely understand you wanting to change your name*****.

But don't change it just because your spouse's parents/grandparents/family biographer will crack the shits if you don't or because you're worried about people looking at you askance.

We don't accept bullying as acceptable when it comes to partaking in or abstaining from controlled substances, engaging in sexual acts or whether or not to become a parent; why should it be allowed or seen as appropriate when it comes to something as important as your identity?

Catherine Deveny wrote several newspaper articles and a blog post on this topic and when I brought the subject up at work I was actually rather shocked at how conservative most of my female coworkers were, either believing that a woman should change her name 'just because' or using the 'it's just easier' explanation that has Catherine knocking her head against the wall.

I'm sure some people like the idea of changing their name and as long as they're doing it for reasons that they're happy with then that's their choice and right but the whole practice will always weird me out a bit.

*That was just an example, I'm not really thinking about marrying a fictional cartoon character. Toki and I would be totally incompatible.

**It was three but one of the women mentioned got married, took her husband's name and now has the same surname as her children.

***I also know some men are a little paranoid about their likelihood of getting custody or visitation rights after a marital/relationship split and that this option would only exacerbate that anxiety.

****Well, those people who accept the validity of same-sex relationships and/or the existence of same-sex sexual attraction...

*****In any of these circumstances, you could have changed it by deed poll of course but a lot of people don't seem to consider that.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Out Of Toner!


Imagine that we found out that there was going to be a cataclysmic EMP* event, that every computer and electronic device on Earth would stop working at the same time.

Imagine the panic as we realised exactly how much of our information is stored in exclusively electronic mediums.

Imagine the logistics. No really, think about it.

If we knew we only had a finite time before all that information was lost to us forever how would we handle it?

Scientific and educational facilities would obviously start printing at a rate of knots.

The production and delivery of ink and toner cartridges and paper would be prioritised and possibly would require the use of armoured cars.

Government branches and public services would draft all their people into collating and stacking and waving fans at overheating printers.

Would it get to the point where they started commandeering or contracting civilian printers?

Would civilian businesses cooperate?

What about professional publishing houses? Those best set up to print large amounts of material in an efficient fashion.

Would they accept priority jobs from universities and the like?

Or would they be grimly printing as many of the classics and as many new novels and non-fiction resources as possible before technology is knocked back to the industrial age?

Would there be riots in book stores?

Would libraries be at risk?

Does anybody still know how to construct a reference card system on the dewey decimal system?

Would there be time for the companies that still print camera film to go completely buck wild seeing as digital cameras would soon be nothing more than inefficient paperweights?

What would we do?

*Electromagnetic pulse

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Fertility Conspiracy

Facebook, I understand that you data mine us and then try to sell us things.

That's practically a given.

But either you're really bad at targeted ads, or you're a complete bastard.

I mean, I was cross enough at the WiiFit when it started flinging thinly veiled insults my way but this?

OK, so my Facebook profile says that I enjoy certain kinds of music, so you put ads for different bands and related items on my sidebar.

My profile says I'm a certain age so you make other assumptions from that and mix in a few other ads about 80s cartoons and band reunions.

It also says I'm single and I'd gotten used to all the sidebar spots that were devoted to advertising various dating websites.

Then you gave up on the regular, run of the mill dating sites and started advertising almost exclusively that I should give single dads a chance.

I'm sure there are lots of single dads out there who are great guys who deserve a loving partner and what not but the way the ads are presented gave a very 'And hey, who are they to be picky? You've got them over a barrel!' vibe which I found somewhat creepy.

And when I didn't click on any of those either, Facebook, you took it a step too far.

Why are you showing me ads about IVF information sessions, Facebook?

Yes, I'm single.

Yes, I'm 28.

But no, I have not yet reached the turkey baster stage of life.

So if you want me to keep pretending that you're a social networking site and not the elaborate marketing research tool that you are, you will drop the IVF ads and I won't have to go completely effing mental on you.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Welcome To My Nightmare...

I'm on a bit of a tight deadline these days.

Having spent most of my life believing that I wasn't 'that into music', only to discover in the last few years that it was because I wasn't introduced to the right music, I am now trying to see as many bands and performers as possible before they all retire and stop touring!

Luckily most of the new music I've fallen in love with is rock and metal and those guys and gals have a history of soldiering on like unbreakable leathery gods, hence today's post.

I've just seen Alice Cooper in concert and it was glorious :-D

Not only is Alice Cooper probably still fitting into just about the same size pants as he was back in the day, he is still 100% committed to his performance.

The sets. The costumes. The theatrics. The musicians he performs with.

All top shelf.

There's a difference between people who are touring because they're broke and people who are touring because they still enjoy it and it's very clear that Alice Cooper falls into the latter category.

And no matter what his age, or how much his face resembles a handbag, there is something rather sexy about a man resting a cane across his shoulders and draping his arms over the ends.

Classic power stance.

From the friends I went with to the people who have been Alice fans since before I was on solids, some of whom had brought their children and grandchildren, thanks for sharing the experience with me.

And for screaming just as loud and high as I did during the best songs and drum solos, that was a pretty impressive effort for the dudes.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Never Grow Up, Never Surrender!

I've always been a fan of dress ups.
You wouldn't believe how much of my childhood I spent charging around the place pretending to be Indiana Jones, some kind of deposed empress or a brave but kind of thick adventurer walking through a forest infested with wolves that could eat me at any minute*.

But seeing as Australia doesn't go in for Halloween, my dress up adventures pretty much ended once I entered high school.

It wasn't until University that I discovered the joy of comic books and various glorious associated nerderies and became aware of the phenomenon that is cosplay.

Australia doesn't have the sheer number and variety of comic conventions that America has either so you either have to be willing to wait and track one of them down or trick you friends into holding costume parties all the time**.

There are some characters I'd love to attempt if I ever get the opportunity and motivation levels just right.

For instance, as much as I'd love to pitch my voice as low as it can go and rock a Dr Mrs The Monarch costume, I'd be too worried about popping out all over the place to enjoy myself.
And as I have some of the curves but not enough of the height I think I'd be more likely to try Dr Girlfriend incarnation if I had the dedication to put together a slamming pink dress and pill box hat ensemble.

But until that day, I will just keep admiring the efforts of others, some of which I present here for your viewing pleasure.

*This one used to annoy Mum a bit as it invariably involved me stealing the knife sharpener out of the knife block (because it looked like a sword) and running about with it thrust through a sash which was really one of her scarves.

**And if they aren't willing to go to more effort than 'slutty [random occupation]' then what's the point?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Philosopher's Bowl

My parents did a fairly good job on educating me about food.

I knew from an early age that milk came from cows, eggs came from chickens, that delicious meat is actually made out of delicious animals, the names of all the vegetables and all the various things Jamie Oliver seems to be so nervous about kids not knowing these days.

But there was one thing I just did not realise for many, many years.

You can make your own soup!

Intellectually I knew it had to come from somewhere and contained, y'know, ingredients but for far too many years I just associated soup with cans.

I guess I knew you could make soup but I put that in the same category as certain pastries.

Sure, theoretically you could make a croissant but I can just about guarantee that without a few years of training or practice, what you'll get will not look like a real croissant. It'll look like a buttery smear of undercooked flobble.

I thought of soup making as a kind of culinary alchemy, only undertaken by the learned and wise.

However, spurred on by the surprising amount of Hourly Comics that showed people making soup (and declaring how delicious it was and how amazing it is that they could have wasted so much of their lives eating the inferior and more expensive soup from tins), I started experimenting with soup making myself.

Guys, did you know that you can just take vegetables, boil them in water*, blend them up and they turn into delicious soup!

It's amazing!

So far I've made a pumpkin and cinnamon soup, a broccoli puree, a cauliflower and leek soup, a hearty minestrone, and a bean and pearl barley soup**.

They've all been delicious.

Chop things up, simmer them for half and hour and you've got a week's worth of lunches just sitting there being delicious at you.

Tell me that's not magical!

Anyway here's the recipe I used for cauliflower and leek soup which is one of my favourites so far.

1 onion
1 small leek
300 g (11 oz) cauliflower
2 teaspoons of olive oil
500 ml (17 fl oz) milk
250 ml (8 fl oz) water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Peel and chop the onion.
  2. Trim the leek, cut into thin slices and rinse well.
  3. Separate the cauliflower into small florets and rinse in a colander.
  4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion and leek.
  5. Cover and cook over a low heat for a few minutes to soften.
  6. Add the cauliflower, milk and water, season with salt, cover and bring to the boil.
  7. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat, allow to cool a little, then blend the soup until smooth in a food processor or with a stab blender.
  9. Adjust the seasoning with salt a pepper.
Freaking. Delicious.

*Or a little stock

**I've made this one about 10 times, but I can't make it when my parents are coming around for dinner because English school lunches traumatised my mother so badly that even the sight of pearl barley triggers flashbacks.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Out Of The Loop

I know some people talk a lot of smack about the internet and social media and how disconnected we're becoming due to overuse of both but in my experience that's bunkum.

I have never felt more connected to the rest of the world, more politically and socially aware and more empathetic than I do now.

I've been lucky in the online friends I've made in the various corners of the internet I've found myself, most of them creative and passionate about a range of things and willing to share that passion without condescending or ranting, all of them interesting, all of them friendly.

I've followed along with various protests, political uprisings, natural disasters, international disasters and historical events and I've felt as if they really have something to do with me.
Not in an egocentric way but in a give-a-damn-about-the-rest-of-the-world-and-the-rest-of-humanity way, either because I know someone personally who is being affected by what is going on or because reading blogs, tweets or retweets written by individuals really pushes home the fact that these things are happening to real people who you'd probably quite like if you ever met them.

This has all been very enlightening and great for my outlook and personal development but it has also highlighted how really horrendously bad my personal grasp of the Australian political system is.

I expect I know more about the American political system (thanks to Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72) than I can remember about Australian politics from my social science classes in high school.

Let me try to sum up what I can remember for you:
  • We have an upper and a lower house, the senate and the house of representatives, one is red one is green, I cannot remember which is which on the colour or name or upper/lower count.
  • Laws need to pass through both houses in order to be passed.
  • When we vote in Federal elections we vote for the party we want in, rather than the person even though we know which person will get in based on our vote.
  • In Australia people don't campaign for selection and then get endorsed by their party, whoever is leader of the party gets to be the head of government if their party is voted in. It's all decided in-party way before election time is called and isn't swapped before election unless the current leader is bombing out/useless, and is all done based on how good a job the person is doing in politics, how savvy they are and how they're doing with public opinion.
  • I can't remember how state elections and government work in relation to federal elections and government, though I do remember the state voting process is different (a lot fewer boxes to number).
That's about it.

I mean, there are other things I know or am aware of but off the top of my head, that's it.

That isn't great.

When I rock up to vote I usually know enough about the various candidates and parties that I know who supports things I agree with or who is highly objectionable but I'm not the most informed of voters, I don't feel like I'm fully engaged with or aware of what's going on.

If a foreign friend asked me what the Governor-General was for or how governors of the different states and territories were selected, I would only be able to give very general and possibly misleading explanations*.

And because of that I just went to the library and checked out Australian Politics For Dummies.

I'm not beating about the bush, I'm starting from the most basic level I can without finding a book with pictures and anthropomorphised legislative scrolls.

Because at this stage of my life, this level of ignorance is just embarrassing.

*The Governor-General, as the Queen's representative in Australia, gives the official OK to any incoming Prime Ministers and signs legislation into law, I think that's it. Only once has a Governor-General actually bunted a Prime Minister out of power.
As for governors of states and territories... I have no idea.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Father's Day

The older I get, the more evident it becomes that I'm turning into my Father.

At least in some ways.

There's a lot of my Mother in me as well but today is time to talk about Dad.

When my siblings and I were kids and we were on the obligatory summer holiday trip - to the beach or to go camping or to visit relatives who lived enough hours away to make visiting a rare occasion - there were things that Dad did that drove us crazy.

He made terrible puns.
He'd pull over to examine historical markers and sites signposted on the highway when all we wanted to do was get to our destination.
He'd steer with his elbows whilst blowing his nose.
He'd take detours because he thought they looked interesting and we'd never been there before.
He'd tell us 'fascinating facts' and then quiz us about them later.

Drove us absolutely nuts.

But those things that drove us mental, are now the things I love (even if the puns still make me groan) and appreciate. And have started, sadly in some cases, to emulate*.

I never appreciated until quite recently the extent to which my Father, coming from a cultural and familial background that favours and coddles sons**, went out of his way to make sure I always felt capable and worthy and just as good as the boys.
He signed us up for a father-daughter group when I was little which took us on various trips and activities, let us do all sorts of arts and crafts, and where we got to spend time together.
He helped me with my homework but never gave me the answers, insisting that he'd be doing me no favours and telling me that I could do it if I put my mind to it, giving me hints and gently questioning my answers to make me think things out.
He let me take up dozens of different sports and hobbies for as long as they held my interest, and challenged me to be sure I wanted to give them away before I did and that I was doing so for the right reasons***.
He bought me biographies of famous female explorers and athletes and scientists.
He bought me books on many different subjects, novels by many different authors and encouraged me to chase anything I was interested in.
He supported me in my studies and travels.
He still does.
He taught me how to ride a bike, how to fly a kite, how to do all those other kid-friendly things that parents are supposed to teach you but mostly he taught me how to think.

Even all those stupid, maddening things he did on family trips are examples.
He taught me to be interested in the world.
That you should always choose new experiences over repetition****.
That there's never a bad time to learn something new.
That if you're passionate about something you should share it with the people you care about or with anyone willing to listen, and that you should listen to them when they share their passions with you.
He taught me to give a damn.
And I love him for it.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

*Puns. You must have noticed my tendency dorky alliterative blog post titles by now.

**Italian. Also Irish, do the Irish do that as well? I don't know any stereotypes about Irish mamma's boys.

***E.g. Not because 'It's tooooooooo haaaaaaaaaaaard' or 'I don't want to geeeeet uuuuuuuuuup at 7am' or 'But my friends are doing something else'.

****I don't always follow through on this one (especially when it comes to DVDs) but when I have the opportunity to do something new, I almost always say yes.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Plants I Want In The Garden I'll Eventually Have

Prompted by the sudden memory of a bush that grew in the garden of the house I grew up in, and the two hour long search for its name that eventually ended in failure and having to ask my Dad who miraculously remembered*, I was set off on another planning jag for my imaginary 'one day' house.

Presented in no particular order, I give you plants that I wish to one day have in my garden.

Rose bush

Eucalyptus tree


Aloe vera

Lemon tree


Pacific blue (or Ceanothus papillosus roweanus)


Passionfruit vine

Silk tree


Daphne Odora

*It was the Pacific Blue, by the way, we called it The Bee Tree because bees absolutely loved it.