Friday, February 27, 2009

Please leave a message....

Well dear reader, I am off on hols.

On Monday I fly to Alice Springs, from whence (nice word) I shall pootle (another goodie) on a tour taking in such sights as:

Kings Canyon
The Olgas
Coober Pedy

The Barossa Valley
The Great Ocean Road

I am very excited about the entire caboodle but it will mean, I am afraid, that I shall go quiet. I may get into an internet cafe in Adelaide to give you a half way update, but otherwise you are going to have to cope without me. I know, it will be hard.

But do feel free to leave a message after the beep and I will get back to you on my return in two weeks ... BEEP

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Regular readers may remember that I have grapheme-colour synaesthesia - a condition which means my brain links words with colours.

Scientists reckon it occurs when nerves in the brain have accidentally merged. Synaesthesia can occur between any senses, some people associate spatial characteristics with smells, or taste can be attributed to sounds... all sorts. I read a really interesting article about it all in T2 (but typically cannot now find it).

Anyway, I came across some research on a blog I enjoy, indicating how common my own form of synaesthesia is in children. Seems grapheme-colour synaesthesia occurs in 1.3% of children.

I am quite pleased with that 1.3%. It's small enough for me to feel special but but big enough (it equates to 170,000 children age 0–17 in the UK alone) for me not to feel too weird.

And in case you were wondering, Wednesday is green, Tuesday is pale yellow and Friday is canary yellow.

Digesting the day

Last night I couldn't sleep. No, correction, I could sleep and kept having to go to sleep, because I woke up every hour on the hour. ALL the way through the night.

So, I am sure you will agree, that is rather annoying, but it was also really interesting. Because every time I woke up I woke from a dream. So I got to remember (albeit briefly) many more dreams than I would normally if they had been allowed to run their natural course without interruption.

I was particularly intruiged to note that each dream dealt (weirdly) with something that had occured that day.

So one dream was a strange evaluation of a report I have been writing for work.

Another dream was the direct result of a Twitter conversation I had had earlier that evening.

A third seemed at first unrelated to my day, until I realised I had been thinking about the very issue that mornng.

Characters I had spoken to, stories I had been told, places I had discussed... all came together in a particularly strange subconscious melting pot.

So now I will understand better why some mornings I wake up from a full nights sleep feeling like my head only just hit the pillow. My fingers get a break from typing, my eyes get a break from seeing and (except for bin day) my ears rest from hearing... but my brain carries on in its own little world, like a computer on the hibernate setting.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ladettes and feminism

Sorry, another feminist topic post, purely because my colleagues have started treating me like the token team feminist and are therefore highlighting every media article they see that they think might get me riled. And one has...

Nina Funnel, a columnist at the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote this article yesterday. In it, she takes a swipe at the TV programme Aussie Ladette To Lady. She reckons that middle aged, upper class feminists are essentially bullying younger liberated women. That having earned freedoms for women they now need to surrender their right to dictate how that freedom is used.

While I dislike the way the teachers in the faux-finishing school talk to their pupils, and pull faces of disgust with a ridiculous level of regularity (and it is noticable that its more extreme than it was in the original two British series) I disagree with her dismissal of the goals and ideals of the teachers.

She says:

Still considered the "fairer" sex, women continue to bear the responsibility for upholding moral standards on behalf of the community. So while binge drinking, public urination and belching are considered unflattering (but routine) among young men, young women who engage in such "male" behaviours are not only unattractive, they are also considered dangerous threats to the moral order.
My disagreement with this assertion frames my whole issue with her article. Call me old fashioned (I may be), call me unliberated (I doubt it), call me a bloody Pom (guilty as charged), but I don't approve of women behaving in this way because I don't approve of ANYONE behaving the way they do.

It is no more acceptable for a man to turn to a superior (or indeed anyone) and pull a moony as some sort of retaliatory argument than it is for the woman who did this in the front room of the finishing school. It merely demonstrates their inability to win their point.

I believe that anyone (male or female) who enters a profession that is all about their physicality (be it modelling, stripping like the ladette in the show, or something else) is going to be overlooked in other departments. The teachers are attempting to give the stripper contestant the confidence to make an impression and be liked for more than her body (and actually, watch this space because I think this particular woman may make the most successful transformation to 'lady').

Funnel also argues:
As a 25-year-old woman (and a feminist) I feel particularly compelled to comment. A number of my friends take pole-dancing classes. Another two have had boob jobs. And many of my friends enjoy big nights out on the booze. They also swear, smoke and have sex. Yet these women are highly successful, motivated, intelligent individuals.
But I think she misses the point. As a columnist for a broadsheet newspaper I can picture the kind of 25 year old friends she has. They will be pretty similar to mine. I have had a pole dancing lesson - it was great fun, in the company of women, and good exercise. My friends and I enjoy big nights out on the booze. Some of them may even have had boob jobs. We swear, some smoke, sex is normal.... I don't doubt for a moment that these are highly successful, motivated, intelligent individuals.

But do they belch? Do they binge drink to such extreme levels they are thrown out of a bar for lewd behaviour? Are they violent? Are they so caught up in their mimickry of disgusting male behaviour that they have lost any understanding of the appeal of doing anything that may be classed as "feminine" such as occasionally wearing a dress? Or being presentable in educated company?

This TV show is like any other, extreme in an effort to win ratings. However the premise is sound. You could replace the women with men, call it Lad to Gent and I would approve equally.

Anyone who behaves like they do should not only be taught of its unacceptability in society, but they need to be taught alternative behaviour so they can (if they, as adults, choose) break their cycle. Let's not forget that these women all applied for their places in that school and are free to leave at any time...

Monday, February 23, 2009

SYTYCD week two

Last night (after a 5.5 hour walk around the south head of Sydney) I settled down to watch week two of So You Think You Can Dance. I think I can make it official that Charlie is going to be my favourite contestant! However I think my favourite dance this week was Gianne and BJ, so here is the video if you missed it last night.

Overall I don't think the standard was as high this week, but ho hum.

And then because I can't resist ... here is Charlie's. Not as brilliant as last week but great fun again.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I like, I like, I like

I was watching a video blog I like today, and the theme of one of her posts was things she liked. I appreciated her honesty and the perspective made me smile, so I thought I would do the same on my own blog.

I like people with mischievous eyes
I like my home made lasagnes
I like lie-ins
I like movies
I like taking my shoes off and putting my feet on the dashboard when I am in the front passenger seat of a car
I like wellies
I like getting post, proper post, like postcards and letters (thank you Katy for the postcard!!)
I like yellow, and red, and green and other energetic colours
I like feeling attractive
I like my feet
I like working with people who are great at their job
I like seeing people in love
I like sour sweets and sour cocktails
I like my colleague's ringtone
I like to have personal ethics and morals
I like the French and France
I like pearls
I like Scorpios, for some reason
I like the anticipation of laying a plan and looking forward to it happening
I like board games
I like to be happy and I like being around other people who also like to be happy
I like a bit of a rant
I like it when I am good at what I do
I like hats
I like people who aren't the same as everyone else but are comfortable with themselves
I like old houses
I like the smell of jasmine... and frangipani trees at night or dawn
I like tartare sauce
I like to feel important
I like rivers and lakes and millpond seas
I like the smell of rain on hot pavement
I like to feel special
I like big socks
I like libraries

Thursday, February 19, 2009

On ginger

I grew up with a red headed sister. She is beautiful and a bit of a genius. But lately I have begun to understand some of what she may have encountered growing up, solely because of the colour of her hair.

Where has this come from? Well...

A very good friend of mine has an 8 month old baby boy. I finally got to meet the 'wee man' when I went home at Christmas and can honestly tell you that he has the biggest, most enchanting smile I have ever seen on a baby. He is a delight. He also has red hair.

This week, while tucking the wee man into the back of the car, my friend was passed in her peaceful residential street by two teenage girls. The girls looked at the gorgeous 8 month old and proclaimed;

"Eeew, I'd never have a ginger baby".... "Yeah, that's disgusting."

Now, my friend believes that one of these girls' mothers has recently been charged with ABH or GBH or something, so she waited until they were beyond stabbing distance, and the baby was safely ensconced in the car before telling them that it is really rude to talk about someone like that, and not to say nasty things about her baby. As she put it to me; "And suddenly I am embroiled in a gingerist war and its all very depressing. Is this what life will be like with a small lovely flame haired one....?"

In Australia they seem to have much more of a hang-up about red headedness, and many many more names for it. Wincing a little at their incessant name calling of grown-ups, children, men and women alike, I have to say I don't even know what descriptive term *is* favoured. My friend used "lovely flame haired one" which I rather like, and my mum always called my sister auburn. If you have pale red hair you are Strawberry Blonde. But is ginger (said with soft Gs) always bad? Is red insensitive? I describe my hair as brown, so if red is wrong is it purely because its rather inaccurate? What do official forms use?

A couple of weeks ago I read an article in The Canberra Times (which frustratingly I cannot find now) in which a father repented for his 'affectionate' name calling of his daughter. While it was written to entertain, and therefore treading rather close to the line of continuing the mickey taking, I loved the conclusion it arrived at, which I paraphrase;

Is this the last acceptable form of prejudice? Ginger is an anagram of another offensive and prejudicial word which we all now know not to use. When will we stop with the insults?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Should we be 'over' feminism?

A couple of days ago an editor friend of mine wrote a blog post discussing a business networking event she had attended.

By her write up, the event was very interesting and she met some great people. A brief bizarreness with blaring music and a command to dance (at 7am? in a suit?) was brushed over because all in all she felt it was a good experience. While her post focuses on the relevance of the event and the propriety of women collectivising without men, my main annoyance came on hearing the name of the networking group; Business Chicks.

Urgh, shudder. I commented on the post:

"I don’t mind these women gathering together, and if they get something out of it then more power to them. I do mind the fact that their name reflects on me even as a non-member. It teaches men and women that I work with and around that it might be acceptable to call me a chick because I too am a woman in business. It is not acceptable. Ever."

(is it weird to quote yourself on your own blog? Oh well...)

I flagged the post to a few people at work because I was interested in hearing what my (mainly female) colleagues would think. Polly of course agreed with me - we tend to choose to rant about similar topics so this didn't surprise me.

What did surprise me was the reaction of my 22 year old colleague. What follows is a direct cut and paste from MSN...

Emily says:

Colleague says: oh god i have to stop reading

Colleague says: i hate anything to do with feminism

Colleague says: not that i'm anti-feminism. I just am over it

Emily says: yeah the comments bug me. I just hate the event name. You have got me thinking though. What a luxury for someone aged 22 to be "over" feminism. Is that a sign we have finally achieved what we need or just that our standards are still not high enough

Colleague says: Very true - i think it is the former (a sign of what we are achieved).

Colleague says: I am 'over' feminism because I think it has lost its relevance in a sense. I know this might sound weird but I think discrimination against women is about as 'real' in today's society as discrimination against other races etc.

Colleague says: of course it exists but it stems more from people's personal beliefs rather than a reflection on society and how things 'should be'

Colleague says: that didn't really make sense but you might know what i mean. But i can't speak for all 22yr olds

Colleague says: I just know I would be a hypocrite to preach about feminism but still be insulted if a man doesn't hold a door open for me or offer up his cab in the rain

Emily says: That's not hypocritical. A man can be gentlemanly without being a mysogenist

Emily says: Feminism isn't about someone giving up their seat for someone else. Its about expecting equality in fundamental areas of our lives. A society that acknowledges that women are different to men and that caters to their differing requirements

Emily says: The maternity leave discussion we were just having in the kitchen is about feminism

Colleague says: that is true - which is why some of the comments in jen's blog pissed me off

Colleague says: what stereotype would they be catering too in this society that acknowledges women are different to men etc

Colleague says: gender stereotype that is

Emily says: but we ARE different. Not better, not worse. Just different

Colleague says: let's just say the reason i'm over feminism is because i think human differences run deeper than gender and it annoys me that people place so much focus on it

Colleague says: i'm not fundamentally disagreeing with you or anything - even the most extreeme feminist argument has its merits, but i am probably biased given being a female has never once negatively impacted my life

Colleague says: if anything it has been a plus

There is a pause, then...

Colleague says: you know what i just realised? I genuinely don't have an opinion on feminism. That is how detached I am from it

I am still mulling over my conclusions. But I guess the things I am left wondering are:

- Does feminism have a bad rep among Gen Y?
- Is it at all relevant to younger women in the western world?
- And if it is, how on earth can we make them see that?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

So you think you can dance?

I have a confession. While I hate reality TV and can't bear Pop Idol type crooning, I *love* dance shows. So, logically, I am loving So You Think You Can Dance Australia. On Sunday the live performances started with the top 20 (MY top 20, channel ten tells me). And there were some pretty great dances. This was my absolute favourite and I wanted to share it with you. Fast forward to 2 mins 45 seconds for the start of the dance without the preamble.

I have to confess that I voted...

Oddly however, while channel 10 seems to have got it very right in creating a special website where you can view all the videos, forward them, even embed them in your own blog... it didn't think about securing the digital rights on the music. So the version of this that I was going to embed removes Beyonce and replaces it with this slightly bizarre lift music. Very very strange.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Reader

This morning Kenny and I dragged our bottoms out of (our respective) beds to go to the cinema at 10am. We went to a preview of The Reader and I loved the film so much that it has prompted me to post here my review of the book, which Boo members will already have seen. If you haven't read it (the book, not this review...), or seen the film - do both! It's excellent.

The Review....

Oh. My. Gosh. Thanks to a book loan from Nick I have just managed to catch up on one of the Boo books that I had neglected to read since I have been away. I am so glad that I have because I think I have just finished reading a book that deserves to rate as one of my all time favourite novels.

The Reader is a truly amazing piece of literature. The topics it covers (the expectations on us in the present to react in certain ways to the past, and the changeability of history depending on where we stand in the present) always interest me, but it is written so well that I loved it as much for helping me to process my own thoughts as for the story.

Having read a couple of articles about the upcoming film I can see that the preoccupation with the propriety of the relationship between Hanna and Michael will annoy me. It is largely irrelevant, serving merely to provide a relationship which ties the two generations through which to analyse our reactions to guilt. It gives us a universally understood relationship of sexual love that we can all relate to in some measure. I don’t think a parental relationship would achieve the same universality.

I feel a little bit like I am writing a school essay, but that is maybe an indication of the intellectual exercise the book gave me.

There were sentences throughout that resonated with profound truth… (goodness I am actually going to insert a quote…); “I wanted to pose myself to both tasks – understanding and condemnation . But it was impossible to do both.”

This book does exactly what I was explaining to Nick and Ian that I look for in a book. It makes its point clearly, enjoyably and with impact. It deals with a highly complicated issue but does it with stunning simplicity… and therefore in very few pages ;-). I couldn’t put it down.

Looking back at my scores, they are all rather bizarre (why did I only give We Need To Talk About Kevin 6.5 when I gave Winter In Madrid 9??) but I am going to have to give this one 9.5. I think it is the best book we have read and it joins Pride and Prejudice, Na├»ve…Super and The Great Smile Robbery (by the great Roger McGough) in my top 4 books.

Friday, February 13, 2009


2009 is quickly ticking past (can you believe it's the middle of February already??) but I have had a number of conversations lately refering back to New Year's Eve.


Well today's is a case in point. The lovely @Bruff from Gizmodo Australia came to talk to the team and mentioned in passing that he had spent NYE singing along to Singstar, the karaoke game for the Playstation. I noted this in particular because I too spent NYE singing into the console.

I also spent the night before Australia Day doing the same, and during the BBQ/party at least 3 party-goers confessed to having spent their NYE demonstrating their own Singstar talents.

So I have two questions for you, dear reader.

1) Did anyone do anything OTHER than Singstar for NYE and,
2) Is Singstar the new going out?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Retail confusion

In Australia there is a chain of department stores called David Jones. They are basically identical to John Lewis in the UK.

Their logo is below.

They are an Australian business. But I cannot get over how similar these two businesses are. For a start I think the logos are rather similar.

But also the John Lewis stores in the UK often have different names, and my old local one in Sloane Square was *Peter* Jones.
I am sure there is something behind all this, but don't quite know what. Or whether it matters.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A geography lesson

I have been motivated to write this post by a number of comments from friends confessing to inadequate knowledge of the geography of Australia. In addition, today I found this post on a blog I read and reckoned he wouldn't mind if I 'borrowed' the pictures.

So, lets start with the size of Australia. It is massive. As you can see from these stolen pictures (thanks Lee!). This is why Australia can have a fabulous ski season, immense deserts, floods in Queensland and fires in Victoria.

Now... what is where? Australia is broken into states (as pictured below).

I am in Sydney, the capital of New South Wales (not of Australia, that is Canberra where I am going in about 6 weeks), and my upcoming two week holiday (which I am booking tomorrow!!) will take me along the dotted line. It is very very far.

If you can't read them the labels say "I live here in Sydney", "Uluru et. al", "Bus...", "Coober Pedy, where the opals come from", "bus...". "Adelaide", "Bus...", "Melbourne".
On my tour (the 9.5 day Trilogy Package) I shall be taking in the delights of Uluru, Kings Canyon, The Olgas, Coober Pedy, Adelaide, The Barossa Valley and the Great Ocean Road before arriving in Melbourne and flying home to Sydney. And the best bit? Just had my holiday form signed off and I go on the 2nd March!!!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Levels of communication

Today Emily-Talkalot really took the biscuit. I have been conversing with Polly simultaneously over no less than FOUR communication mediums. It made me realise that although some seem similar, I really do use every messaging medium for different purposes.

1) Twitter
I start with Twitter simply because it was on Twitter that I realised that the parallel conversations were occuring. I use Twitter as an outlet for my butterfly thinking (a concept introduced to me by a colleague years ago). When something is in my head and I want to share it, I tweet it. Tweeting doesn't need to worry about whether its a convenient time for the recipient of the message. In fact there isn't a recipient usually because I am broadcasting inane things. I will send out interesting links or funny comments on my day, and reply to other people's.

2) Email
Email is, for me, mainly a work messaging tool these days. I do email home and friends (although not very often). The sad thing is, aside from when I have Work Head on, an email seems like a very large chunk of messaging to undertake at any one time

3) Facebook
- Facebook messages have largely replaced my social email usage in the last year. It is my most comprehensive address book for friends and family
- Facebook walls. I leave little detail-free messages on people's walls "how are you" or "happy birthday". Anything more detailed tends to go in a proper Facebook message because other people don't need to see it
- Facebook messenger. The newest messaging application in facebook, this is great because I am an MSN messenger addict but most of my friends and family aren't on there. My sister tends to hang around on Facebook a lot (stay at home mum... tut!) so I can often have a good chat with her on this

4) SMS
I use my mobile phone for SMS much more than I use it to call people. My phone is a BlackBerry so its really easy to type things. I sometimes forget though that the recipient is not mandated to reply immediately and (used to quicker messaging means) I can have a tendancy to watch my phone and wait...

I love MMS too (I especially used to use it a lot to get photos from my phone to my blog) but for some reason I can't make it work in Australia.

5) MSN
I *love* MSN. In my old job I used to sit with an MSN window to Almostalady all day. We would have full on conversations which lasted a whole day. We would pass on tidbits we had heard from our opposite sides of the office. It was great. Now Almostalady's shoes have been filled by Polly and it is still great. Its also great to have MSN running if I am at home in the evening. While watching TV I can chat to Almostalady and Cathy (who will have just reached work as I finish my dinner and are therefore looking to be distracted).

6) Letters
I love receiving them, but rarely write them. My dad writes weekly and I love the banal content. He also emails me, meaning occasionally I read something which he already told me a fortnight before (gosh post is slow!) but there is something so lovely about a letter. You make time for it and settle down to read it. Then when its over, its over. You can read it again, but you can't hit reply. Its beauty is in its lack of immediacy. Sometimes I like to think of my blog as a kind of 21st century letter. It doesn't have all the brilliance of the slow delivery, but it is the only place where I give myself up to thoughts that I imagine a Jane Austen character might wander through as she constructs a letter to her married sister.

7) Face to face, good ol' fashioned talking. Best done down the pub I say :-)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Throw another shrimp....

Tonight, dear reader, I take a step ever closer to the remote antipodean specie known as The Australian.

If you thought Australia Day was a step too far for any self respecting Brit (see piccie), think again.

For tonight I shall be hosting my very first Aussie Barbie. A casual post work affair, I reckon there will be abour 12 people, burgers and bangers (I drew the line at Kanga Bangas and shrimps).

Kenny is supplying some very Australian Dry July stubby coolers, but is resolutely saying that as an initiation I must be left entirely alone in charge of the BBQ (sorry, barbie). Apparently his one concession will be to pass stuff through the kitchen window out to the balcony where I shall be cooking.

Everything is ready to go, and I am really excited! My only problem is that I want to make herby bread (family recipe - BBQ essential) but while Sydney is rich with Turkish Bread, Ciabatta and suchlike, I cannot find a good ol' fashioned UNSLICED English bloomer anywhere!

Still, mate, the grog is in the fridge, the sangers are ready for the barbie, the weather is a beaut. She'll be right!
So where the bloody hell are you? (he he!)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

In search of chocolate

Last night the Chocolate Girls reconvened for heat two of the Great Chocolate Cafes of Sydney Contest. The night of the Lindt cafe.

We gathered at Darling Harbour at 6.30. We perused the menu. We approached the counter... then we were told that they only did take away after 6pm. WHAT?

Not to be put off by such shocking performance by one of the contestants, we headed off on a trek across the city. Emma guiding us to the Max Brenner on Pitt Street somewhere. Somewhere, we can only assume, a little way from where we looked. It didn't materialise, so Nozomi lead us down to Martin Place, looking for the other Lindt cafe. It had shut even earlier.

Desperation was setting in, but then Nozomi pulled it out of the bag, dragging our tired feet into the Wynyard Max Brenner while regailing us with enthusiastic recommendations about their waffles.

Relieved (the contest could progress) we scanned the menu. Here I must descend into a list, dear reader, because as the second contestant in the competition this cafe had a competitor to live up to. So here are the pros and cons....

- The chocolate was milky and lovely
- They were open
- Their menu was adventurous (chocolate pizza??)
- Their drinks are FABULOUS (strawberry and passionfruit smoothy? Lush - and it makes you feel healthy despite the chocolate!)
- The cups were specially made pottery and I want one (see the picture...)
- They keep vats of melted chocolate at the door and pipe it to the counter for you to eat. Yum

- A shocking obsession with banana as an ingredient (have I revealed before my utter phobia of the fruit?) When ordering my waffles I had to specify that they should leave the rank yellow fruit off
- A lack of menus on the table, which therefore meant a lack of Max facts. Lindt's menu tells you all about the conche shaped barrels, Guylian tell you about Guy and Lilianne.... Max is still just a mystery bald man

All in all though, a great chocolate cafe. If Guylian got 6.5/10, Max gets a 7.5. All together a yummy evening.

We still plan a Lindt visit, but their score will be dramatically impacted by their opening hours.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Censorship in the 21st century democratic world

I haven't posted about this before, because I didn't believe that everyone was serious... but I am becoming increasingly concerned that they are.

Australia's government wants to introduce internet censorship. Yes, you heard me right. Internet censorship.... like they have in China.

The sad thing is I am not exaggerating! The minister for Broadband And Suchlike Stephen Conroy is looking to introduce an internet filter which he hopes will protect children from porn. However rather than making the filter a service that parents can opt into through their service provider, the filter is set to be manditory - essentially filtering the entire internet at points of entry to Australia.

It is utterly disgraceful. The government has not yet drawn the line as to what is and what isn't allowed online - much discussion has surrounded whether sites about anorexia should be blocked.

If this filter goes through Australia can proudly stand alongside China, Iran, North Korea and Cuba in restricting the population's opportunity to access information.

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