Sunday, 26 February 2012

How The Imperial System Was Repurposed To Keep The Empress Down

I've recently finished reading the archives of the excellent webcomic I Think You're Saucesome by Sarah Becan which she created to document her journey as she attempted to get fit, eat well and confront her body image issues.

I feel it's been a privilege to be invited into her personal life and it's been wonderful to see the progression of her awareness, confidence and acceptance of self and gradual easing of her insecurities and the unhappiness they brought.

And oh my goodness the food illustrations!
Sarah eats a varied and wonderful range of foods from a swathe of different cultures and as she has shared this, I've found myself making lists of things that I definitely need to try.

One of the other things I was reminded of was the treacherous nature of the unit of measurements that is 'pounds'.

I have long thought that pounds was an evil unit of measurement and this has been confirmed over and over again by listening to and reading the way that the women who use it to assess themselves talk about them and how that impacts their self-image and mental health.

For starters, for anyone who doesn't know, 1 kg is equivalent to 2.2 lbs.

This fundamentally alters the way you think about weight gain and loss.

'Oh no I've gained a pound' once translated to the equivalent of metric equals...
'Oh no, I've gained 450 g!'

That's nothing. That's a good meal that your body hasn't had time to process and push out your poop chute.

That's forgetting to take your shoe off.

And the higher the measurement gets, the more marked the effect becomes.

Being able to say 'I've lost 20 lbs' might make it sound more substantial and impressive but it also means that gaining 20 lbs will be more depressing.

Gaining 9 kg can be a bit of a downer in the wrong circumstances but hey, at least it's not in the double digits.

I know that a person who is used to the imperial system won't think that 132 lb sounds huge compared to 60 kg as they have context and know what the actually represents.

But the itty bitty increments, they can drive you crazy.

It seems that it makes you hyper-aware, the slightest shift is noted and assigned a higher significance.

The emotive value attached to each pound is equivalent to or even greater than the value or importance that is attached by metric folk to each kilo.

The actual 'mass to mental/emotional investment' seems exhausting.

And that, I believe is the point.

You think the introduction of the metric system to the United States failed because of resistance from the public or big business or due to a residual cultural impulse to continue to flip Europe the bird?
Not a bit of it.

The pill was approved for contraceptive use in 1960 and the two presidents who attempted to introduce the metric system were Gerald Ford (1974-1977) and Jimmy Carter (1977-1981).

So, between 14 to 21 years on from the introduction of the pill it was becoming apparent that now women didn't have to be worried about being pregnant all the time, they had time to think about other things and ask questions and do things and go outside.

This did not sit well with the traditional leaders of the land, the big movers and shakers in the doodle community, and they knew they had to do something to keep women distracted.
Hence the boom in advertising and the fashion industries that had been building and gaining speed since the 1960s.
If they allowed the shift to metric, what would happen to all their hard work on the importance of female body image?
It would be partially mitigated.

That and the cultural and sociological belief that women have weaker mathematical and spatial awareness skills that could be further confused by the crazy-pants arbitrary measurements that make up feet, yards and miles, cemented the Imperial system in place in the United States.

Yes, that's right, the imperial system is a patriarchal plot.

Designed to over-complicate and over-emphasise what should be a much less involved issue.

I know it didn't start out that way, it was just an adorable set of arbitrary measurements.
The length of a foot, how far a healthy man can walk in a day, the width of three chickens roosting side-by-side...

But after a while, once humankind developed accurate tools for measurement that weren't physically attached to the tallest man in the village, why on Earth would you keep using those units if it wasn't an underlying and sinister motivation?

Because they think they make sense? Pfft! Please!

I'll admit that I've believed some crazy things in my day but I'm not going to fall for that one!

I'm not that gullible!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Daughter Of Planning Hermit: This Time It's Personal

To counteract the frowny-face head-shaking nature of the last post, here are a couple more things I would like in my imaginary 'some day' house*.

Dish Draining Cupboard

My Auntie Lina** and Uncle Ugo have one in their apartment in Torino and it is just an insanely good idea. It keeps the dishes out of the way, it allows them to drain somewhere that's designed to get wet, it allows a lot more space than a traditional dish drying rack, it's not cluttering up your bench space, and when it's time to put them away you just pop the cupboard open and take things out in an orderly fashion.

If I wanted to have the sink facing a window I'd have to rethink design but I think I could make it work.

Tilt-Turn Windows

These I also saw for the first time in Italy and they're wonderfully practical.

You turn the knob one way a certain amount and the windows open up properly and you can stick your head out and see who is at the door/what the person down the street is yelling about/whether there is a vicious xenomorph hiding in the shrubbery beneath your window***.

You turn the knob the other way a certain/different amount and the window pops out at the top allowing the passage of cool, fresh air into the room and hot stuffy air out of the room without having to open the entire arrangement.

Living in Australia this means I'd have to have fly wire outside to keep myself from being eaten alive by mosquitoes when I left the window top agape but I figure that could be managed.
Either just by having tilt-turn windows that open inwards, or by having inward opening tilt-turn windows and outward opening flyscreen panels.
I'd prefer the second option because that preserves the ability to stick your head out and have a nosey about.
As an Aussie I've almost never been able to do this because of fly wire being in the way.
It looks like so much fun in the movies...

I also like the Norwegian windows that have a set of windows that swing inwards on the inner edge of the frame and a second set that swing outwards on the outer edge of the frame that allow better insulation in winter but again I'd have to make allowances for flyscreens.
Maybe a rectangle of flywire secured by magnet strips that I could remove or attach at will...

French Doors In The Master Bedroom

I love French doors. These arched ones below are particularly gorgeous.

Now whether they open onto a balcony as shown here or a private courtyard as shown below will depend on how many storeys my imaginary house has and which level I chose to put my bedroom on.

The important thing is that they should be there, they should allow me to move from my bedroom to a relaxing section of the outside world and they should let copious amounts of lovely fresh air and outdoors smells into my bedroom whenever I should wish it!

Dutch Doors

This is another thing you don't see in Australia often, partially due to the aforementioned mosquitoes and so on but also because it just wasn't one of the things the Dutch saw fit to bring over or to share with the rest of us if they did.
I'm still a bit hurt about that, the Dutch.

I mean, look at how lovely they are!

You can get a bit of fresh air**** without letting pets or children wander in or out willy-nilly when they shouldn't.

You can chat to people who are outside when you're inside or vice-versa, hear things that are going on without having to open windows or doors, shut two parts of a door on somebody one after the other to emphasise how displeased you are!


Bathroom Fernery

My grandmother's house has a well-established fernery outside the bathroom window and it is the most absurdly soothing thing.

With the combination of the plants in the fernery and the shade-cloth that protects them, the light levels in the bathroom are gently muted, slightly green and it is always cool and refreshing.

It lets you feel like you're near nature without having to struggle to keep plants alive indoors or deal with the shed leaves, incumbent spiders or other such things.

It ensures privacy - none of that everyone can see your private moments tosh - and overall just gives the room a nice atmosphere.

Alcove Beds

A little room within a room.

A little nook to squirrel yourself away in and - depending on design - remain unseen.

Novel, an interesting use of space, and in some cases almost like having a secret room out in the open.

When I was a kid I imagined being able to turn my bed into a little secret room, I put bookshelves under my bunk bed in such a way that I had a little room underneath my bed, but if you'd told tiny me that these sorts of bed designs actually existed I would have lost my tiny mind.

Especially if it had a built-in book case and looked like it had been nicked from Aladdin.


There will be one. Yes there will.
It might not necessarily look like this one but look at that lighting.
Innit nice?

A nice place to relax and kick back by yourself or entertain if you feel so inclined.

Now I am aware that some of these features may make my house more susceptible to access by general intruders, thieves, weirdoes and zombies but I'll take measures to dissuade that during the planning stages.
I wouldn't want to get lax and then have to spend hours scrubbing brains and blood out of the nice rugs and wooden floors I'm planning on having.

*I am aware that if I did try and cram all the features listed here and in other posts into one house, it probably would end badly for me, for the house, and for my sanity and bank balance.
A girl can still dream though.
A girl can dream.

**Well, she's my grandmother's cousin but we call her Auntie Lina, and that makes her husband Uncle Ugo.

***Well the information will serve the people behind you well. You know very well what form the confirmation of presence will take.

****Are you sensing a theme yet?

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Things I DON'T Want In My House

In a 'fortunate for me, not so great for them' fashion I've been noticing items in other people's houses that would drive me up the freaking wall.

I say 'not so great for them' not because my displeasure will rain down upon them like the wrath of the gods but because these are usually permanent features of their freshly built or bought homes.

Maybe they don't notice the features I'm referring to or if they do, they don't bother them or maybe they like them*; I just know they're not for me.

In any case, these items are on the 'not if I can help it list' for inclusion in my imaginary 'some day' house.

Push Plug Sinks

In case you don't know what I meant by push-plug**, I meant this.

I dislike them.

These drive me inordinately nuts.

You have to push them down to lock them in place and push them down again to release them.

Seems easy enough except for when they break and then you can't seal your sink or if they get stuck and you can't let what's in the sink drain away or if you have something fall down the hole that you could have hooked out if you could see what you were doing or if you get a build up of gunge in there and using a plunger doesn't work properly because every time you try to suction the gunge up with the plunger, you accidentally press the stupid button and seal the sink.

In short, they're stupid and in no way as efficient as a plug.

Sure, plugs aren't attached and I guess in theory they can get lost but they're not prohibitively expensive and they work without hindering functionality.

Novelty Basins Of Any Description






God, no. (And really, watermark thingie? House beautiful? Is that a claim you're willing to stand by?)

Sinks should be set in the countertop, they should be a certain depth and the tap should be positioned and designed in such a fashion that if you need to get your head underneath it you can.
Quickly and comfortably.

You get something in your eyes that you should not have gotten in your eyes are you going to want a strangely shaped basin that more often that not is so poorly designed that it has you splashing water everywhere but the sink? Or do you want a sink you can get your face into so you can wash anything dangerous off as quickly as possible without hurting yourself?

And cleaning around those amazing unique sinks looks complicated and unnecessary.
It's just a bunch of new crevices for mold to grow in and areas to bang or scrape your fingers on as you try to access them.

Angled Shower Bottoms

I don't have a photo for this one yet but essentially the floor of the shower is raised in the centre, sloping outwards and downwards to a channel that runs around the outside edge of the shower and encourages the water towards the drain.

I guess this is supposed to discourage stagnant water that might sit around being gross, encouraging the development of soap scum, and harbouring pubic hairs.

What it really does is turn the shower into a hazard that risks turning an able bodied person into a disabled person and a disabled person into a dead person.

News flash, geniuses! Shower floors are slippery! And when you angle them... people slip! And when they try and regain their balance... they stub their toes in your dumb water channels which you engineered to solve a problem that no-one ever has ever complained about.

Covered Shower Drains

Ditto with the photo thing for now.

The idea here is that they've placed a little raised cap over the shower drain so the water goes in without you having to look into the gross yucky hole!

It also means you can't clean the gross yucky hole which after a year probably has a Rapunzel-worth of hair hanging down in a long, mold clogged tail of disgustingness that allows the shower water to drain away in a slow fashion that won't startle it or allow anything else washed down the drain the chance to slip away too quickly before being gathered into The Collective.

I'm pretty sure The Collective will give you some kind of disease.

Plus if you like stubbing your toes, here's another charmer!

Certain Surfaces In Bathrooms, Kitchens And Laundries

Namely, fake marble or fake anything else counters made from synthetic materials.

Synthetic materials that are easily scratched, may discolour when you put a hot pot down on them and after a relatively short amount of time look completely beat up.

My bathroom counters will get splashed and shouldn't be made of something that will warp from the damp or develop little tide marks no matter how quickly you clean up after said splashing.

My kitchen counters will have hot pots put on them, they will have meat mallets used on them, they will have pasta makers clamped to them.

They'll take a beating and I intend for them to be made of a material that will survive this intact, looking OK and won't cause me health problems.

If a stone counter top - entire or compressed - has issues that would render them too expensive or too impractical then they're off the list.

If the wooden one would prove a health hazard if improperly cured or cared for, I may even get one with a hard-working boring industrial kitchen veneer over the top.

Whatever it's made of it'll be in a colour and style where it won't matter or show up if it scratches, won't dent and I won't give a tinker's cuss about spilling food upon.

Counter's are for using. Not for fussing over and protecting.

Floor-To-Ceiling Windows

Every second house built or renovated on Grand Designs seems to feature or be primarily composed of floor-to-ceiling windows.

They have a lot of drawbacks.

They transmit heat too readily making a house hard to cool in the summer or heat in the winter without the heat effect you're trying to achieve and maintain leeching away.

If you put up curtains to counteract this effect, and have to keep them closed for a goodly portion of the year you may as well not have floor-to-ceiling windows at all.

They'd be a bugger to clean and you'd have to clean them regularly to keep them from getting scummy or making the place look untidy.

It would be simplicity itself for a ravening horde of zombies or post-apocalyptic cannibal humans to just smash their way into your house unless you spring for reinforced magic glass which very few people do.

I'll admit that if you have a particularly gorgeous view they may be warranted in one room of the house, that's one, but let's not go crazy.

Recessed Down Lights

These are so poorly designed.

Even if you get the right size and intensity globe for your fixtures, often the heat from operating your light - a not unreasonable thing to want to do - will warp and discolour the housing it sits in.

I've been in houses, brand new houses, where the down lights are dangling out of the ceilings on their wiring because the heat of operating the down light weakened the glue or whatever held it in place and caused it to drop out of the roof.

If anything goes wrong with them or you can't get the globe out because they're recessed and impossible to get hold of, you either need to remove the entire housing or call an electrician.

Mounted down lights may be fine if done properly but recessed ones are a terrible pain in the arse.

Inappropriately-Designed Toilet Windows

I flat out refuse to look for a photo for this one but the example I give you should draw a clear enough picture.

At a brand new house designed by architects wanting to stretch their options, the tiniest room was designed with a big old window that reached all the way from ceiling to about hip high.

You know, exactly the right shape and size to show the entirety of whoever was on the toilet to whoever was looking in the window.

And this being a new house in a shake and bake community, the people next door were so close that their windows were oriented to look at your toilet.

So the only way you could have any privacy was to have the horizontal blinds closed at all times.

This meant that if you had the window open for fresh air, you would be slapped in the leg and other body parts by a horizontal blind being battered about by the wind.

It also meant that you needed to use the light switch during the middle of the day because horizontal blinds don't allow you to leave a section at the top open to let in natural light.


Laundry Nook


Yes, I know we don't spend anywhere near the amount of time we used to have to on doing laundry and we don't need anywhere near the paraphernalia or the space but I reject laundry nooks.

They seem to imply that laundry is something that should be hidden, denied and ignored, as if the clothes and sheets and whatnot just miraculously clean themselves and that implying otherwise is distasteful.

Either that or is just says 'we can't be bothered devoting a room to cleaning activities and supplies because we're designing houses poorly and need the room for something else because we're trying to shoe-horn a living space onto a postage stamp with no garden'.

I want a room with a decent sized counter, a couple of deep sinks and a decent amount of storage space for cleaning items and linens.

I want somewhere to leave my sheets and towels and clothes if I can't or don't feel like washing them straight away. Somewhere they'll fit without having to be crammed out of the way.

I also want somewhere I can clean other household items that might need cleaning.

You know, things like shoes with dog poop on the soles which I strangely don't want to wash in the bathtub I bathe in, the shower I stand in or any of the sinks I wash my hands, face, food or crockery and utensils in.

Laundries are useful and versatile dammit.

There's probably a few other things but that's more than enough ranting to get on with for now.

More than enough.

*Oh the horror!

**Americans etc, you say 'sink stopper', Australians say 'plug'. This is because it can be used to plug up the drains of both sinks AND baths and saying you need a sink stopper for your bath confuses us.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

It's a simple message but it's from the heart! ;-)

(click to embiggen)

It's also from here, if we're being literal

Saturday, 11 February 2012

A Slight Oversight

It's been ages since I went travelling* and my realisation of this fact ran smack-bang into my remembering that one of my friends who has been working in New Zealand for the last year is finishing up her contract in about a month and will be heading back to Australia.

I messaged her saying it was a pity I hadn't had the wherewithal to get myself organised to go over and see her at any point during that time.

She said "What are you doing the weekend of the 25th and 26th of February? We're going to the beach for a weekend, you want to come?"

A few years ago this sort of spontaneous arrangement would have had me hyperventilating into a paper bag, here in the present I just said 'YES!'

I started looking at flights, got the OK from my boss to take some time off, made myself a reminder to buy a new bathing suit and then I remembered...

My passport was due to expire mid-June!


Sure I'd be travelling in February but they advise you not to travel on a passport with less than 6 months on it on the chance that you get to the other country and get turned back at the gate.

Crud crud crud!

I have my Italian passport of course and that would work but what if when I came back into Australia on my Italian passport that meant the immigration office would be considering me a foreign entry and would later demand that I leave the country and come back in on my Australian passport?

Unlikely, I know, but this is where all the nerves which would usually have popped up when I made the decision to travel had obviously decided to set up shop.

I jumped on the Australian passport website and started clicking around to see whether I was in fact screwed.

According to the website it usually takes 10 working days to process a passport - score! - but you should allow between 5 and 8 working days for postage to be safe - un-score**!

Crud crud CRUD!

But wait!

What's this?

Priority processing?

For an extra wad of cash we will process your passport in 2 working days instead of 10?

So, bribery, ey?

I can play that game.

On the Sunday I filled and printed out my passport renewal form and located my old passport.

On the Monday I went into the post office, had a photo taken, signed my form, transferred my wads of cash, watched as they invalidated my old passport with a pair of scissors*** and submitted my form.

On Tuesday I received notice that my passport was finished and would be on its way to me soon.

On Thursday my passport turned up in the post.



Considering the amount of dreams and nightmares I've had about racing to airports and realising that I'd forgotten to bring my passport with me, I found the prospect of actually not having a passport completely terrifying.

Now I have my passport, I have my flights booked and everything else is just details.

This is going to be fun!

I know this is just going to set me off again, with the scheming and the planning and the yearning.

And oh boy am I ready for that.

I am definitely ready for that :-D

*A bit over 2 years.

**At the time I had 15 working days available to be and I was not willing to gamble.

***They just snip a bit off the front cover with scissors so nobody can mess it about to look valid again.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Expanding The Franchise The Old-Fashioned Way

Do you guys remember my mate Awesome?

Well she and her fella have been married for about a year and a half now and towards the end of last year she told me that the two of them were trying for a baby.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Awesome has never been that interested in kids and had always said she was going to have dogs instead.

Of course that was before we met our friend Inky*.

Inky has three little boys.
When we first started hanging out with her they were 0, 2, and 4.
They're now 2, 4, and 6.

Over the last two years Awesome's time with Inky's kids has obviously convinced her that tinier humans are not in fact the devil's spawn that she thought they were and that having one of her own might not be such a terrible thing.

And now Awesome and her husband are expecting.

So having been informed I am going to be an auntie, I immediately starting thinking of ways I could help out.

For starters I've been reminding everyone that as a metal-head couple, Awesome and her fella are not going to be wanting any gifts in pastel.
They've already bought Awesome Junior this here jumpsuit...

...and most of the baby's other clothes are likely to be fairly similar in nature.

The other thing I started doing was research.

This is what I do.

I read up on stuff and just have it sitting in my head in case it becomes useful.
It's how I helped my sister and Awesome plan for their respective weddings and it has served me well in a lot of other situations.

So I did a bit of generalised reading here, a bit of asking all my kid-having relatives and coworkers what are the most useful things you can do to help out a new set of parents there, a bit of looking a baby paraphernalia when out and about.

Over Christmas I spent about four days getting some hands on experience with my cousin's 4 month old and 20 month old so that when Awesome is all sleep-deprived and serial-killer-looking I can pop over for a bit and wrangle the child as she has a shower and/or a nap and gets out of the house for a bit.

Two tips I learned from that particular experience:
  1. Don't wear necklaces around babies and toddlers. Not because they will get a hold of them - though they will - but because they have this disconcerting habit of flinging their heads against your chest and you don't want to have to explain a Celtic cross shaped bruise on their soft head bits**.
  2. If you've got a voice you use for telling your dogs or cats off it works perfectly with kids. You say 'put that down' in the 'no' voice you use for dogs and they put that right down. So useful!
Somehow I managed to not actually be in charge of said kids any time they needed their nappies changed which I just put down to being further proof that the universe loves me.

Awesome isn't quite ready to actually think about the Baby Exit Strategy just yet so I figured I'd have a look into it for her so that when she is ready to start planning I can have the information on hand.

So I started watching this documentary One Born Every Minute and Oh My Lord.

Apparently having babies can be somewhat painful!
I mean obviously it would be considering what has to come out where but until I watched this show I didn't fully comprehend how long labour went on and some of things that can happen during it.
Bloody amazing.

And some people's partners are completely [redacted] useless!
They just sit there looking fed up and making snide comments whilst their lady writhes around in agony.
I know you're only seeing a slice of their life and it's at quite a stressful time but you'd think that during labour would be the one time you'd manage to reign in your jackassery and be supportive!
Even if just to look good for the cameras!

But overall it's a fascinating series.

You get to see a snapshot of people's family situations, their circumstances, their personalities and witness an important moment in their lives.

It does make you think the human body is somewhat bodged together as it seems to take an absurd amount of effort to eject a fresh human being from the slot.

Inky is going to be Awesome's other birth partner (along with Awesome's husband) as she's had several children and is a registered nurse so I won't actually be there but knowing what is coming up is both incredibly interesting and rather daunting.

Both from a logistics point of view and from a 'holy crap, we're adults now' viewpoint.

Obviously we have been for a while, we're all about 28, but the events of the last few years have really driven it home.

Awesome has gotten married and is expecting a baby.

Eep has built a house with her fella and they're getting married at the end of this year.

I have a credit card and have used it to book international flights and hotel rooms like a real grown up and am routinely taken seriously despite constantly feeling like I'm play acting.

We've all had cars, had jobs, paid taxes, organised all sorts of weird and woolly grown up things and after Awesome Junior pops out of the chute everything is going to be different from then on.

Awesome will be the first of my friends to have a baby*** and even with all the reading I've done I don't think I'll be ready for how much that's going to change our lives and the nature of our friendships.

If nothing else it's going to be educational.

*She has tattoos. Lovely tattoos.

**This didn't happen but it was close, oh so close!

***Inky has babies but I didn't know here when she was having them. They came as part of the package with our friendship. Awesome is the first of my school friends to have a baby.