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l'enfer du North Island

  better not shout OK Thursday, 24 December 2009 link

It's on general release now, so the NDA no longer prevents me from pointing out that I'm in the credits for Avatar. I'm rather chuffed. OK, so I'm credited as "Software Developer & Engineer" rather than "Technical Writer", but it's all good. Modesty prevents me from going into any real detail, but suffice to say that any rumours about a more "fundamental" role are true, but I didn't get credited for it. Ahem.

Christmas Eve: when the children alternate between exaggerated hyper-conforming virtue and bouncing off the walls with excitement. I was firmly informed last night that we needed to leave out a bottle of beer for Santa, and about seven carrots for the reindeer: one each, plus two for Rudolf. This morning, she's considered it a bit more and wants to leave 10, in case any of the reindeer lose or drop their carrot. About to take them swimming to burn off some nervous energy.

Ah, the internet. Heather spends twenty minutes searching the net for ham glazing recipes, then gets depressed with the results (who glazes a ham with peanut butter?), tweets her disbelief. Within two minutes the lovely ladies at Filament reply with a link to their Christmas ham recipe, completed with rudeboy crumpet. Excellent.

  do not pinch her Saturday, 19 December 2009 link

At the Capital E Pacific Santa event today, "Mrs Claus" (who Rebecca loudly pointed out bore a striking resemblance to the wonderful Fairy Trina) told the children stories. I spent the time going through the slightly incongruous Happy Christmas Assault Course with Maggie - she was a devil for getting stuck under those nets you crawl under (not joking; I'm still not sure how it fitted with the Christmas theme, but the kids loved it). Ten minutes later, the stories finished and Rebecca ran out to join us. I noticed a certain something in the other parents' eyes from then on. For some, contempt; for others, a certain wistful longing, an almost "If only I dared... but no! Such a course is not for me!"

Four hours later, Rebecca told me that Mrs Claus had been suggesting to the children that they help their parents in the run-up to Christmas. Rebecca had stood bolt upright and said "I know! I can get Daddy beers from the fridge!"

Mind you, this is the same kid who got bored halfway through watching (what had, unbeknownst to us, turned out to be) an animated version of the book of Exodus, and asked to put on Shaun the Sheep. Atheist parenting: win!

  that's not hyperbole Thursday, 17 December 2009 link

I had a good moment this morning. Every Sunday night, I spend a bit of time with Rebecca going through news items so she find something to report to her class on Monday. As I don't particularly want to have to explain the introduction of martial law in the Phillipines or civil war in Congo to a five-year old, we tend to concentrate on the more natural history, sciencey end of the BBC News web site: how hammerhead sharks' eyes work, new astronic telescope arrays, and on one memorable occasion the controversy around the Anglican Church's ordination of its second gay bishop. That was fun putting it into phrases she could write our herself, let me tell you.

So I was quite chuffed this morning when Rebecca piped up apropos of nothing and told me about how octopusses have been observed carrying coconut shells to use as portable shelters. Someone in her class had brought that one into school yesterday. Excellent: I am not the only parent who does this. But c'mon! Octopusses using tools! How much cooler than that could you possibly get?

Which is just one reason why my next planned tattoo is going to be a slightly stylised/abstracted octopus, around my left thigh. That's on the cards for April of next year: plenty of time to save up and get the design worked out.

Speaking of tattoos, I saw a close relative recently who knew that I had tats, but didn't know that I had recently got a few more. She was quite shocked - she thought that I'd got over it. We had a chat about it, and she remained resolutely anti them (while being perfectly pleasant to me). One thing did stick out: she asked whether the tattooist thought it was odd that someone as old as me was getting more tats. I was a bit mystified by this. I am, at present, 34 years old. Yes, I got my first few tats between the ages of 18 and 21; then there was a bit of a hiatus, until I turned 33. But it occurred to me that my relative probably thought of tattoos entirely as something you do when you're young and dumb, then regret after you turn 25. In contrast, I'm actually pretty middle of the range when it comes to people getting tattoos. If nothing else, how many 21-year olds can actually afford a full sleeve? People who ask me where I got my tattoos range in age from 16-year olds to people in their fifties; when I'm in getting inked, the people wandering into the studio for a look follow a similar age range, with a notably bump around the late 20s/early 30s. Indeed, I've had both a GP and the mortgage manager at my bank ask me for tattooist recommendations. Tattoos: not as bad as your elderly relatives may think.

But enough of this idle flim-flam. I'm off to go to a klezmer gig with an accelerometer strapped to me, in the name of SCIENCE!

  twitter, misogyny Wednesday, 9 December 2009 link

It's been an interesting time, and specifically an interesting weekend last week. For various reasons, I won't go into details.

The other day, I achieved a goal of mine. I signed up to Twitter specifically to be able to tweet "Pod of dolphins in Evans Bay now". And on Monday, I got to send that tweet. There was a large pod of dolphins hanging around just by the end of the airport runway; I sent the tweet. I have now officially Won Twitter. Now I need to try a speedrun. Come back, dolphins! Come back!

Or playing it on Hard. That'd be "Killer whales off Lyall Bay" (does happen, just less often).

There's recently been a lot of talk about a major sports star who has allegedly been cheating on his wife, with an ever-increasing number of women coming forward to claim that he's scored holes in one (so to speak). One thing that does rather annoy me about the tenor of the discussion has been the prominent argument that runs something like: "But his wife is so incredibly attractive! How could he want to cheat on her?" This annoys the hell out of me for two reasons:

  1. It reduces the wife to a rubber doll. The only thing that matters about her is that she's attractive. How could you want to cheat on someone this beautiful? I mean, look, she's beautiful! Never a word about personality, about what she might want out of life, or about the dynamics of parenting and relationships. Why, taking that into account would imply that she was a real human being who interacts with her husband on a reasonably equal level. No: none of that matters, it's all down to whether the wife's a hottie or not. Way to remove all agency from her, people.
  2. And conversely, it implies "Well, of course if she looked like the back end of a bus, then it'd be perfectly understandable and basically fine."

Both of these implications annoy the hell out of me. Look, clearly the bloke's been cheating on his wife; this is (presumably) not something she was OK with, and is thus a problem. But FFS: it's not any better or worse because of how she looks. And if you use her looks as the only descriptor about her, you're reducing her to a doll.

Plus: "He has a beautiful wife at home." Yeah, the "has" there isn't implying ownership at all. She's her own person!

And if I hear one more person make a food-based comparison ("why go out for hamburger when you've got steak at home?", etc) I'll retch. When, oh when, did it become non-dodgy to routinely compare women to food items? How is this not terribly, terribly objectifying?

And finally: there's a serious undercurrent of virgin/whore here. "Why, oh why, would he ignore his beautiful, ash-blond, scandinavian wife, in order to cavort with those cheap sluts?" The wife's on the pedestal, the mistresses are rutting in the dirt. It's the third millennium. Can't we get past this cartoon thinking, this slotting people (living, breathing, complex, real people) into simple roles and using it to form an instant opinion or flog a paper?

I'll be honest: I couldn't give two stuffs either way what the bloke's marital transgressions are. But the reaction, among the media and among people I respect, has really put my teeth on edge. More so that I realised: I thought this would be a three-line throwaway point, but it's rambled on a bit more than that.

When I was a kid, I didn't realise the underlying rationale behind a lot of adult activities. I thought that letters to Santa were an actual way to get Santa to sit up and pay attention to what you want; I also thought that my parents sent me on school holiday programs because they genuinely wanted me to learn more about Maori culture/gymnastics/art. Now, as a parent, I have realised the truth. You get the little buggers to write letters to Santa so you have a fighting chance of finding out what they actually want for Christmas and thus avoiding screaming tears on Christmas morning. You put them in holiday programs so you only have to burn a couple of weeks leave over Christmas and can actually get back to work sometime before February. If they learn to do a forward roll as well, it's a bonus. It's a hard truth, people.

That said: Rebecca has started negotiating to swap her bedtime story for a session on the computer before going to bed. No, not what you think: she's eschewed the joys of barbie.com in favour of Microsoft Word. Yup: every evening, she asks to spend twenty minutes on the PC writing a quick story about whatever's on her mind. Tuesday night, it was hornets. Last night, Cinderella. Tonight: who knows?

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unspoilt by progress

calm, peaceful, sweary


Jack is:

jack@tallpoppy.org

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Heather is:

heather@tallpoppy.org

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Rebecca is:

And she doesn't have an email address.

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Maggie is:

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