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O.o Nov. 3rd, 2010 @ 05:23 pm
I am profoundly confused right now.

I just went to comment on a post that showed up on my reading list.

... I'm banned from commenting on that person's journal.

(Which means I also can't send them a personal message to ask why.)

I'm confused because I am aware of no conflict I've ever had with this person.

I searched through my e-mail - I archive all comment/reply notifications, because I store my brain in my computer, and I will easily forget important things if I don't - and we have zero history of conflict. The only interaction we've ever had is that I once, on LiveJournal, posted a comment in this person's LJ - and my LJ account has a different username (theirs doesn't). I just reread my comment, and I don't think it's offensive.

If they were offended, they didn't say anything. If I give offence, I always try to resolve that; as a rule, I'll apologise (and explain what I meant if what I'd said had come across differently from how I'd meant it). I don't know that I've ever just said, "No, I meant that, and you're wrong!!!" or some variation thereof. (Because as a rule, if I give offence, it was accidental, and if I express myself badly and it comes across in a way that offends the person I was addressing, I wish primarily to correct this error. If I intended to give offence, it's generally pretty damn clear.)

And apparently you don't get notified when you get banned, so I don't even know when this happened.

It's confusing and disconcerting and I'm mildly distressed, because now I feel like at some point I must have really upset someone, and I don't know how or when which means I don't know how to fix it.

That flowchart people are talking about... Oct. 12th, 2010 @ 08:57 pm
Originally here.

My reaction:

Wait, Yoko Ono is a fictional character now?

I think there's a seed of a good idea in there somewhere but it's beyond botched.

Curiously enough, it's the inclusion of specific examples that actually does directly break the whole thing - it strips out all possibility of nuance, and all possibility of having any potential usefulness or applicability to, well, anything.

A number of the characters showed just don't fit the trope they've been assigned. Miss Piggy is a Muppet. They're not supposed to be balanced characters. There aren't any well-rounded Muppets. Because well-rounded, balanced personalities don't really fit with Muppet-dom. "When in doubt, blow something up" is not a sane approach to anything.

But all that is really not that much of an issue when you take into account the inclusion of Yoko Ono on the chart, which positively pole-vaults over the line of appropriate critical commentary.

I have no real opinion on Yoko Ono. But she is, in fact, an actual person, and using her as an example of an unflattering fictional stereotype is just flat wrong.

The societal harm of oppression Sep. 22nd, 2010 @ 09:49 am
Something I was just thinking about (while trying to negotiate the endlessly difficult curves of the class-A Daytona event race in the Ferrari F430 in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue; my current opinion of the Ferrari F430 boils down to a Ford Prefect line. "Looks like a fish, moves like a fish... steers like a cow."):

There are more subtle ways that society's policing of gender and sexuality hurts everyone. It can be summed up by the examples of two women I know, both of whom arguably best qualify right now as "friends of friends".

1) An older woman, now friend of a friend my age, but I knew her back in the 80s as the mother of a schoolmate.

Then? Heterosexual bitch.

Now? Perfectly nice lesbian.

2) A few years ago I was friends for a while with a guy, but our friendship ended on terms of mutual severe aggravation. Dude was a tool.

Now? Rather lovely young woman.


I genuinely believe that no-one can live a lie and not have that lie be toxic. And that toxicity will spread throughout everything they do, and everyone they come into contact with. When societal pressure forces the lie, then the toxicity will spread throughout society.

Hmm. (A thought.) Sep. 16th, 2010 @ 06:49 pm
So, [personal profile] sqbr mentioned [community profile] tenwomen and I went and looked at the profile and I saw this statement:

"The Challenge: produce 10 creative works (via writing, fanart, vidding, or any other medium) in which the central main or narrative character identifies as female."

Which, there's a whole 'nother post in the underlying stuff behind the thing of this comm, which I'm not going to get into right now (and no, I don't feel it really applies to me, because I've written *lots* of stories about female characters - a background in femslash will do that - and also, my current primary fic project is primarily about Lightning Farron and Oerba Yun Fang, and... yeah, what was that about strong female characters?), but there's one thing that jumps out at me in that statement.

Which is "identifies as female".

That phrase is starting to bug me in a lot of contexts, because... why can't that be "is female"? It's like it's the new PC way to say that, except that it drives me nuts, because the implication is that there's a difference, that someone who "identifies as female" is distinct from someone who "is female".

(Argh, I just hit the boundary: female has ceased to look like a word to me, I feel like I'm not even spelling it right now.)

Anyway, my point is: jack that noise, seriously. It's a woman's prerogative to be a damn woman, and it's starting to seem like a kind of chickenshit PC way of othering trans women to me. It's like it's saying, "well, real women identify as female too, obviously, but if we say "is female" then we're not including the trans women, who identify as female but obviously aren't, so let's say it like this!"

I should hope that it goes without saying that I'm not saying everyone who uses this phrase is being secretly transphobic, in much the same way that not everyone who uses the phrase "whirling dervish" is being hideously racist. But it's starting to make me twitch really quite a lot.

I fell off the internet again Jul. 31st, 2010 @ 07:49 am
There has been stuff! STUFF! I still owe people comment replies, even - I LOVE YOU GUYS JUST THERE HAS BEEN THIS STUFF I CAN'T EVEN.

Still, absolute total props go out to:

My new youngest friend, J., who is ONE WEEK OLD TODAY! ♥ Rock on, little J., you are the tiniest, cutest person IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. I know you're all over some vital skills there, with the breathing, sleeping, drinking, and pooping, the difficulty curve scales up from here but you have the fundamentals down COLD, son.

His mother, who is awesome, including for having forgiven me for having made her cry in a dream I had. I felt genuinely miserable ALL DAY because of that dream, and when I saw her, she forgave me and also noted that I'd been totally in the right ANYWAY and her dream self was JUST WRONG and I felt vindicated as well.

The older of his maternal aunts, who is the AWESOMEST PERSON EVER although way less cute than J. Like, WAAAAY less. Although she is a much better conversationalist DON'T WORRY J. DUDE I'M SURE YOU'LL BE GREAT TO TALK TO WHEN YOU LEARN HOW TO FOCUS YOUR EYES AND COMPREHEND ENGLISH AND STUFF LIKE THAT but it's fairly likely I'll always be closer to your aunt than you but that's okay I'll forgive you when you roll your eyes at me for being so OOOOOLD I'm like six weeks older than your mother so that definitely makes me old enough to BE your mother therefore I'm probably automatically totally uncool and I can live with that. But I will always love you anyway because I think it's pretty much, like, a REQUIREMENT to love someone if you've known them since they were three days old and also you've been friends with his aunt and his mother for years and years and years.




Anyway in half an hour or an hour or whatever Dean is getting up and then we're going in to town and I'm going to buy StarCraft 2. I was ambivalent but the reviews look like I will *totally love it* and also, on reflection, I feel like I owe Blizzard StarCraft money because I played a zillion games of StarCraft without ever actually buying the game (a friend recruited me for their LAN games). And StarCraft was awesome, and the people who say "but it's just like the original, only with new units, better graphics, and a new story, the basic gameplay is the same" like this is a BAD THING are deranged, if I wanted to play a *completely different game* I would play a *completely different game*, if I'm playing StarCraft 2 it's because I want MORE STARCRAFT.

Current Mood: hyper


The thing with BP Jun. 20th, 2010 @ 01:21 pm
So, as my bloodless brother Chas pointed out yesterday, most folks realise that boycotting BP petrol stations doesn't hurt BP so much as hurt the independent operators who run the petrol stations.

Nonetheless, when I really needed to get petrol yesterday, I couldn't quite bring myself to stop at BP - even though my four and a half litres (for my 125cc scooter and its tiny tank) isn't exactly going to register.

We all have our quirks.

This does, however, bring me to a topic I've been meaning to post about: the oil spill, the "White House shakedown", and why Obama, for all the ways he's not doing entirely well at living up to all his promises, is still the best US president in my lifetime.

See, the thing that brought arguably the greatest ecological catastrophe in human history into being was that BP executives figured that it was going to be more profitable to cut corners on safety and let risks go.

The reason this was so is that there's a long history, in most countries, of letting corporate misbehaviour go with never more than a slap on the wrist, maybe a fine that is, to them, trivial.

When this happened, BP needed to pay. Not just to punish BP, but to establish a precedent that if an oil company screws up, like BP did, then it will, in fact, cost them more than being careful would have - preferably, far more.

I was surprised, and curiously relieved when I heard that BP were going to be hit this hard. It's not just going to cut into their profits, they aren't going to have profits this year. Their stock price has tumbled, their shareholders are probably pissed, and all this could have been prevented.

Hopefully, that's incentive for all the companies who drill for oil to take an immediate and thorough look at their own safety procedures, because they don't want to be in the position BP are in right now. I can't see where Obama made any concessions to BP in that meeting - they're paying twenty billion dollars, and they also have to pay for the cleanup, and that sum is not capped, and does not cover any liability for civil actions by affected parties.

As far as I can see, any bargaining that the White House may have offered, a sop to "negotiation" rather than "telling them how it is going to be" seems to have been along the lines of "and we won't have you arrested for manslaughter and every other crime we can attach to you" or maybe just "and we won't have you killed".

But that, you see, is why that Republican congressman doesn't like that this happened. He's in the pocket of the oil companies, and the thing with it is that this precedent *is* going to cut - marginally, and appropriately - into oil company profits, because it just got too expensive to be careless.

Miscellany Jun. 9th, 2010 @ 04:25 pm
The degree to which Dreamwidth keeps getting more awesome is impressive. (And kind of makes me feel guilty for not keeping up with it very well lately.)

Quote of the day: In 1979, the United States federal government went after Sonny Barger and several members and associates of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels using RICO. In United States v. Barger, the prosecution team attempted to demonstrate a pattern of behavior to convict Barger and other members of the club of RICO offenses related to guns and illegal drugs. The jury acquitted Barger on the RICO charges with a hung jury on the predicate acts: "There was no proof it was part of club policy, and as much as they tried, the government could not come up with any incriminating minutes from any of our meetings mentioning drugs and guns". (From Wikipedia on the RICO Act, emphasis mine.)

Why this quote gave me significant pause: Of the phrases I associate with the Hell's Angels, "adherence to formal committee procedure" isn't one. Seriously. I've been on a number of committees that kept minutes, I know that minutes are necessary, but somehow I just don't expect the Hell's fucking Angels to do it.


Meanwhile: Apparently I hold grudges against species better than I do against individuals. And in terms of animal subgroups, I am totally going to judge by colour, it turns out.

In Scotland, I walked around the loch at Fyvie Castle. I saw white swans floating on the loch, and I saw white swans coming in (very noisily) to land on the water. I thought: "Hey, white swans. Cool."

Yesterday, riding past the hospital on my way home from stopping by uni, I slowed down, with other traffic, because two black swans were crossing the road. I thought: "Go slower, maybe someone will run you over, [hatefully]."

The difference: I was never mugged by a white swan as a small child, whereas a black swan hit me with its wing, honked loudly in my face, and took the chicken drumstick I was eating on my family picnic from me as I was biting into it.

Ever since, I have pretty much hated black swans.

I have a vague theory that the degree to which I, and I hypothesise others, will indulge in categorical prejudice is in no small part dependent on the degree to which the members of that category are distinct. e.g. Swans, to me, all look pretty much alike. (Er, black swans. I can tell the difference between black and white swans. Just, "swan" defaults to "black" in my head, because I grew up in Western Australia.) So swans are easily dismissed.

Whereas I can't categorise, say, Canadians that way. I've known a few Canadians who really, really bugged me. I've known several Canadians who outright sucked. But because Canadians are people, each of them unique and easily distinguished from other Canadians, I don't have a default setting of "I hate Canadians".

Oddly, there's an accent which, when used by an older male, gets my hackles up instantly, but that's from working several years at Directory Assistance, and having a near 1:1 ratio of customers : GIANT JERKS with that accent. (They were famous for being total dicks to women on the phone, often demanding managers, and then being asses to female managers, but sweet as can be if they got a male manager.)

I don't actually know where that accent comes from, though, so I don't know who I'm prejudiced against, there. I just know that if I heard it on the phone, after a year or so, I would always become instantly wary, and found myself feeling genuinely astonished the one time I had a customer with that accent who was polite. (I told all my work-friends - they were shocked too. We all knew the Accent of Douche, spoken by the Douchebags from Doucheland.)

At some point: A reflective post on why UWA is peopled with ghosts, but not when I've had only five hours' sleep.

Apr. 5th, 2010 @ 12:54 am
So, I've realised of late that I've been caught by the paralysis of two things:

1) I've fallen behind in reading blogs, journals, and Facebook, so I'm reluctant to start reading them again because omg I'm so behind and CLEARLY once I start I have to catch up completely, right? (This is even my problem with LJ, even though I'm now over a year behind and am seriously NEVER EVER catching u

2) I also haven't been posting, which means there are a zillion things that have happened that I thought were worth posting about, and haven't, so obviously I have to write all those up as well once I start.

So, I'm going to try and let go of both of those Excessive Perfectionist sentiments and pick up from around now.

Interestingly, my new psychiatrist, who I shall refer to here as Dr D, tells me that his research and experience have indicated that there's a very strong correlation between ADHD and perfectionism.

He said: "Let's say perfectionism, not OCD." Reasons why I like my new psychiatrist include: he doesn't pathologise every damn thing. Perfectionism is a character trait that can be problematic if taken to extremes; Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is, well, a Disorder, and that has connotations.

Almost all characteristics of mental illness are just normal traits shifted further on the spectrum from the average. I like that Dr D patently recognises that; that to him, different doesn't necessarily need to be corrected.

He also thinks I pretty clearly don't have a personality disorder. This is a relief; all else aside, every time I mention my mental health on my journal, I lose readers, so I really would hate that to become more of a theme...

"So, where have you been?" Mar. 14th, 2010 @ 07:12 pm
I haven't been able to keep up with LiveJournal in a very, very long time.

I'm a couple of months behind on reading DW, too. (My DW reading list is very, very quiet, you understand, and heavily filtered to exclude things that will break me.)

The last couple of weeks I've been completely out of touch with pretty much everything and everyone who doesn't live in the same house I do.

This is because of my mental illness, which, recently, has included Fun Things like breaking down into seizures (probably psychogenic, have had a CT scan, am getting tested for epilepsy next week), and sundry things that have produced a vicious cycle in which the possibility that I will get sad can trigger an anxiety attack that triggers pretty much everything.

Still, we've managed a few days in a row without serious seizures, and the longer I go without them, the easier it can be to avoid them, because I don't have the acute headaches and mental fuzziness getting in my way so much.

So, things which have been going on lately:

- I've taken up painting, in watercolours and oils. I'm not very good but I'm not completely terrible. Somehow, despite the fact that I didn't do any sketching to speak of for many months, I didn't lose my skills at that. I do a lot of landscapes, too, partly because I have many lovely landscape photographs I took in Britain to work with.

- I took up playing EVE Online and do that really a lot, because I enjoy it lots. Part of that, I think, is that it's the least grind-based MMO I've ever seen; the EVE equivalent of XP is arguably skill points, and skill training happens constantly in the background. The capacity to Lose All Your Stuff is novel, but I'm reasonably careful, and I don't fly ships I can't afford to replace.

- Yesterday Dean and I went to the Gluten Free Food Expo. It was nifty. You get a bag of flyers and stuff at entry; sadly, the juice freeze things they contained went straight into the bin, as they were flavours that did not work for us. Mango and Coconut or Guava and Coconut; Dean doesn't do mango or guava juice and Sami is deathly allergic to coconut, so very much a Not So Much there. But we tried many other delicious foods and got a tasty lunch there and stuff.

We also got useful intel; a local Coles does not stock a product that we wish it did, and we found out from the Coles reps there that it's totally supposed to, so we have leverage now to bitch at the manager.

- As I may have mentioned, we got FF13. No spoilers, please; Dean and I are playing it together, which means our progress is limited to when we're both able to play. (Current setup for this is that Dean drives; I am in charging of periodically looking things up online, watching numbers, making suggestions, etc. Meanwhile I also play EVE and do other stuff, because I am a compulsive multitasker. At some point I'll also play a separate game myself where I press butans, but I have solemnly promised not to get ahead of our shared game.)

An Object Lesson! Mar. 5th, 2010 @ 04:35 pm
So, uh, still not dead, there has been Much Porblems, will make real personal!post at some point.

However, for the content factor on this post: my dear adored friend C just provided an excellent lesson in How To Deal With Privilege Checks.

Scenario: I just bought a new mouse. I got a Razer DeathAdder, a high precision gaming mouse, as it happens the same kind C has.

So he asked curiously why I chose that one. He wouldn't have thought it would be my choice, as it's the kind of mouse that's perfect for people who play first-person-shooters and the like, which I don't, most of the time.

I got upset. I felt like he was suggesting that I didn't need this kind of mouse, that I'm just not hardcore enough, that it was pointless for someone like me to have a mouse that's a high-precision gaming mouse.

So, we resolved that, between us. And things were okay.

In order to make things remain properly okay, we set out to spend some time together. I had a bunch of paintbrushes and things on the couch, so I told C to clear it off, explaining: "You get to do it, because I'm in combat [I was playing EVE online] and anyway you were a jerk." Pause. "Sexist."

I was adding that mostly to show him I was kidding, because any time I tease him for being sexist, I'm kidding, because he isn't. But then he replied that he'd just realised that as a matter of fact, he should shut up.

He'd been feeling a little put out, because he felt like he hadn't been a jerk, because he had just been curious, and hadn't meant to imply that I wasn't Hardcore(tm), or anything like that, but he'd just realised exactly *why* I'd got upset.

Girl gamers get a lot of disrespect and deal with extensive misogyny and so on. Which is why I was stung by getting something that felt a lot like that from someone I love.

C: "So I'll just take my privilege over here and shut up."

He recognised that he had caused pain due to a rather subtle point of privilege. The pain caused to me is not his fault; he's not a misogynistic jerk, he's respectful towards women in general and in gaming. He himself pointed out that I'm a more hardcore gamer than he is, most ways. He doesn't have a problem with this. It's not his fault.

And yet, upon realising that there had been a Thing there, and it was a privilege issue, he concluded immediately that it was therefore his responsibility to suck it up.

More people should do this. A privilege check doesn't mean you're a bad person for having the privilege or for not having realised it until confronted with it; how you respond to that is what matters. If you respond by accepting that that means that what seems unfair to you totally isn't, and you suck it up and deal with your own hurt feelings to make it up to the person you hurt, then that makes you a good person.

Taking care of business Jan. 7th, 2010 @ 12:00 pm
So, here's the thing:

I have a mole on my back, near my shoulderblade, that a while back started intermittently being all itchy.

A couple of times of late I've noticed it stings a little too.

This is unnerving, because there's a chance it might be nothing, and there's a chance it might be skin cancer.

The thing being that if you get it caught early, this is Not A Big Deal, and if you don't, this kills you.

I haven't had it checked yet.

And it occurred to me, recently, that this is more-or-less suicide by stealth, or at least an attempt at suicide by stealth, combined with a little bit of the irrational fear of being told it's bad that killed my paternal grandmother.

So I decided, time to kick that crap in the face and get it sorted.

I looked up skin/mole clinics. There's a MoleScan near me - getting to it by public transport involves a bit of a walk, but it's not too bad. I called them.

I went immediately to hold. After a couple of minutes, someone picked up the phone, but it turned out she'd picked up the wrong line, and had meant to leave me on hold.

A couple more minutes passed.

I decided they could go to hell, hung up, and scanned the list again. There's a place called the Skin and Mole Clinic in Joondalup that - due to it being located across the road from where I used to work - I happen to know is readily accessible by public transport despite being a long way from where I live, so I called them.

They get my custom on the basis that they picked up the bloody phone when I called. I have an appointment in a week and a half. I will get my mole checked out. If it is sketchy, it will be dealt with.

And I may write an irritated letter to MoleScan's head office.

This may need its own post Dec. 11th, 2009 @ 07:13 pm
So, I have recently found myself disagreeing with someone in the comments to someone else's locked post (hence no link). The point with which I have been taking issue is the assertion that people in a position of privilege can/will be better-placed to fight -isms because they "can see the problem more clearly" and are "better attuned" to cultural boundaries than in-group members will be.

I feel my latest comment is a tad incoherent in places and would welcome some constructive criticism on how I'm presenting my central thesis, here:

Oddly, I just found a partial explanation for what I think you're missing in something I wrote about RaceFail in March:

... at the end of the 18th century, radical movements for social and political change changed from being the hobbyhorse of a few wealthy intellectuals (yes, I'm guilty of gross reductionism, shh) to the product of widespread working-class involvement, thought, activism, argument. The lower orders, as they were known, began speaking up, demanding representation, demanding rights.

This was a problem, and was met with repression, where the previous advocates of universal suffrage and suchlike had been tolerated calmly. The old advocates were eccentric aristocrats. The new radicals were workers. Lower-class, absent all the privileges held by the wealthy and titled.

The lower orders talking about politics, reading "The Rights of Man" and trying to claim they deserved respect and all that stuff? Arrogant presumption.

I think there's still something like that today, with some people's reactions to minorities advocating for themselves; while people might think they believe that disabled people should be accommodated equally with he abled, that homosexuals deserve the same rights in their loves as heterosexuals, that people who aren't white should be placed on an equal footing with people who are (including recognising that centuries of oppression have left their mark, and merely removing active barriers is not enough to put them, as a population, on that equal footing, because someone born in poverty to illiterate, alcoholic parents is not in a position of equality to someone born in better circumstances, and while it is not a firm rule for individuals of any race where they will fall on the socio-economic spectrum, on balance of population majorities, some groups are currently at a disadvantage that needs to be remedied)...

Pause here because that sentence got away from me a little, and I have a lot of reading to do and haven't time to edit it properly.

Yes. While they think they believe all that stuff, and probably sincerely do, some people seem to find it something of an affront when members of that minority group express their own opinions, voice their own experiences, insist on the respect which in theory most of us agree they deserve but only some of us notice they don't get. The idea being that "we" know whats best for "them"; it's probably an intellectual (as grouping) bias, in that intellectuals tend towards believing that We're Right.

And it can feel like a terrible shock, I guess, when you think you're being ever so kind and wonderful, and discover that actually, no, the person doesn't want your help, exactly, they want independent equality.

The thing is that that attitude is condescending. Like a wealthy landowner condescending to talk to his gardener; it's understood that it is an act of kindness and charity for the master merely to acknowledge that the servant is human, with experiences beyond his role as The Gardener. For the gardener to initiate the conversation would be presumption.

The unprivileged demanding equal status with the privilege is presumption almost by definition; it is denying that the unprivileged person should just "know their place", demanding that their place be moved, presuming equality to be their right.


It is not possible for the oppressed to be liberated without one of two things:

1) The consent of their oppressors

2) Bloody, violent revolution

Now, being that most minority groups are not in fact aiming for a bloody, violent revolution, it is necessary for the ending of systemic -ism that the privileged consent to end oppression. This is what activism does - attempt to establish that the -ism is a Bad Thing and that therefore if you embrace it you are a Bad Person. No-one wants to be a Bad Person so they try not to do the thing.

So privileged people are the ones who need to change. They will feel like they should be a part of this. All of this is fine.

However, the idea that they should be encouraged or even permitted to take a directing, decision-making, authoritative role in the breakdown of their own privilege is untenable, because it inherently reinforces the privilege. If you say that white people should have a strong role in breaking down racism in a way that gives them authority in the struggle itself, then you're doing it wrong, because that's reinforcing their position in a hierarchy that should not exist.

This is why the privileged need to be allies. Because it's the first step in establishing that sometimes, they're not in charge.

A loose collection of unrelated tales, anecdotes, and recent occurrences Dec. 5th, 2009 @ 06:05 pm
1) Kids Today, or: My City Is Better Than Yours

Last night, I was walking through the city centre at about half past eight in the evening. It's late night shopping on Fridays in the city, so there were many, many people around. Nonetheless, coming into Forrest Place (essentially the central city square), I was mildly disconcerted to see a crowd of at least a hundred teenagers, formning a circle about five kids deep, around... something.

Whatever was happening inside that circle, it was eliciting occasional cheers and a number of mobile phones out, filming whatever was happening. Somewhere nearby someone was playing music.

I went closer, got to a point where I could see inside the circle.

The music was theirs, and there were \teenage boys, taking it in turns to try and outdance each other.

They were good. A kid who had absolutely mastered the dancing style I associate with hip-hop. A boy no more than sixteen or so who could do that thing where you dance while doing a handstand on one hand. They were doing things I'm too old to know the names of, and doing them well, and drawing a huge crowd.

A bit later I had a brief chat with a cop. (I stopped to tell him that, just in case they were concerned, that crowd of teenagers were doing absolutely nothing wrong.) He said they'd been past the crowd a few times - they thought the kids were really talented, and were happy they were having fun and causing no trouble.

Rock on.

I am a bad, bad person

So, I'm playing Metal Gear Solid 4. I restarted my game on a higher difficulty - I intend to go back to the other one (which is in Act 5 now), but playing too much Batman: Arkham Asylum had confused all my button reflexes and I needed to crank back and retrain myself.

Anyway, the opening section of MGS4 involves trying to get through a city where a running street battle is taking place between PMC (Private Military Company) soldiers and a local militia. In theory you're not on either side; in practice the militia, if they win, will be clearing the PMCs out of your way and making it easier to sneak to your objective (and trying to get through without being seen by *anyone* is really really hard), and you can pick up a militia disguise that makes them think they like you more than they do.

Not to mention, at some points the fighting is rather fierce, and stray bullets are a health hazard even if no-one is actually attempting to kill you personally.

So the sensible way to go about getting through the area is to help the militia achieve their objectives, in as stealthy a way as possible, to help get rid of major obstacles in your own path.

However, the pragmatic and yet also kind of evil way to go about it is to let the militia die in very, very large numbers, so you can collect and sell their guns, the better to buy shiny guns for yourself.

(The cautious way to do it, when you don't want to risk getting killed and losing all your lovely Drebin Points when you restart at the last checkpoint: find a safe niche close to the action, and send the Metal Gear Mark II out stealthed to collect all the guns.)

I liken myself to heroes

I am developing a vague Thing about Leonardo da Vinci, mostly because he is a Historical Genius and Awesome Person who makes me feel better about myself. He and I share these characteristics:

- A tendency to obsessions, especially in research.

- A tendency to start things and not ever finish them.

- The capacity to be distracted really, really easily.

He was awesome. I could be too.

And now, excuse me: I must shoot down a helicopter.

Aussie Aussie Aussie Sep. 30th, 2009 @ 04:23 pm
Scenario: I am showing Chas the foreign currency I bought today, a stack of British pounds, Euros, and Malaysian ringgits.

Me: It seems strange that this is the most expensive thing I bought today - a handful of paper.
Chas: Not just paper.
Me: Well, no. A handful of promises.

It's the slightly more poetic way to look at currency - it represents a promise, and a faith, that this will be upheld as being worth something far greater than its intrinsic value, which is, after all, very little.

And now, having been all lofty and so on about that concept, it is time for crass parochialism: Australia still has the best money in the world.

Malaysian money - or at least, the 50RM note - is the right size and shape, but it's made of paper, which is problematic. Very problematic.

The British 20 pound note is too wide to sit comfortably in the hand, though the design is at least reasonably elegant. *And* it's made of paper.

The Euro is terrible - it's too wide to sit comfortably in the hand, AND it's ugly, yet at the same time kind of bland and bureaucratic-looking. It looks like joke currency! And it's still paper.

American money is possibly the worst out there. It's all the same colour, which means you can't glance at a stack of notes and tell what denomination they are. AND it's all the same size, which means that if you're blind, you can't tell what denomination they are at a *touch*.

Australian money is brilliant. Every note is a different, very distinct colour, and the notes are also different sizes - the bigger the note, the bigger the denomination, but even the hundred is still a reasonable size in the hand.

And it's plastic. Which means that if you leave a hundred bucks in your pocket as your jeans go through the wash, what you have, when you take your clothes out of the wash, is a clean, damp hundred. I have, today, acquired a bunch of money that can't get wet.

I remember it seemed weird, when we made the transition to plastic banknotes here, but it's so very, very much worth it.

This is how my brain works before I take my ADHD medication Sep. 27th, 2009 @ 09:42 am
I've realised, a tad belatedly, there are still some things that may need a little bit of Sorting Out with my travel arrangements; should be okay, though, really.

Meanwhile, I was just looking at my small camera bag. I don't currently use it much; my backpack fits all my lenses etc much better.

Camera bag is also one I'm reluctant to use while travelling, as it looks like a bag for quality cameras and is therefore perhaps more thief bait.

THEN I had the idea that maybe I should take it as a thief DECOY.

And THEN I had an even better idea, which is that I should have a decoy WALLET - only, just to exact my vengeance upon any pickpockets (I'm not going to any countries that aren't thoroughly socialised, so they have no excuse), I should, clearly, have a decoy wallet which I have inscribed inside with arcane symbols and daubed with a smear of paint that looks like dried blood and, I don't know, a feather tucked in the money bits.

A wallet that, if stolen, when you open it up implies YOU ARE NOW CURSED AND YOU WILL BE EATEN BY A DEMON, basically. See if I can get some sulphur powder to rub in the seams.

I don't know what it is about travelling that makes us suddenly think that our pockets will get easier to pick. Maybe it's just that pickpocketing is a sort of Known Crime that's not so expected, where I come from.

My wallet tends to live jammed in a fairly deep pocket, so I've always assumed I'd feel it if someone tried to nick it, but no-one's ever tried. (I know, because I've never *felt* someone try, and I've also never lost my wallet to a pickpocket.)

Oh, well. The wallet I'll be carrying overseas won't have much that matters tremendously in it anyway.

Sometimes uppity IS the word you're looking for Sep. 23rd, 2009 @ 08:53 am
Seriously, Google is getting kind of uppity.

First, I have a search that included, as a keyword, the word "appropriate". Which returned results with the note that the search did not include the word "appropriate", would I like to see the results that did?

YES. THAT WAS WHY I PUT IT IN MY SEARCH QUERY.

Second, you have the part where a search using the word Finnmark is heavily polluted with results that feature "Finn" followed by "Mark", as separate words - generally references to Huckleberry Finn and Mark Twain.

Because, apparently, Google thinks that I don't know to put spaces between words, and couldn't possibly genuinely mean the word Finnmark.

That's really not a call I'm in favour of search routines thinking it's their place to make. If I enter Finnmark, I expect results about Finnmark. If I enter "appropriate", I expect the default result set to USE THAT AS A SEARCH TERM.

Google really needs to know its place.

a thing Aug. 19th, 2009 @ 05:51 pm
This evening: my lesson against making assumptions about people, in a way.

The thing is... well. If no other background element matters, take it as read that I'm really sensitive to smells. Accordingly, I tend to keep my distance from people who smell bad, whether they smell dirty or smokery or whatever.

And so we begin our tale at the point where I am getting on to a train at Guildford station.

I fumbled the things I was carrying - walking stick, backpack, tiny laptop, because I was trying to hurry and my meds have worn off and I just was all fumbly, in general, and two people from inside the carriage came to help me. A tall white woman, and a tiny Aboriginal man. Very nice of both of them, but, as I sat down - across the aisle from the Aboriginal man - I became aware that he smelled. Of stale sweat an unwashedness, and his jeans were dirty. He had a couple of shopping bags containing grocery stuff and a plain, undecorated didgeridoo with him, so I didn't think he was homeless, just unwashed.

So I wished I was further away from him, but it was just too hard to move.

I listened to my music, aware that he and the white woman were chatting - they appeared to have mutual acquaintances.

As the woman got off the train, she casually mentioned that someone - a seventeen-year-old girl - had been hit by a 4WD (SUV) and killed.

The man made shocked sounds, and for the next couple of minutes, kept exclaiming: "Fuck!"

I packed up my stuff and moved over to him. Asked if he was okay, if he wanted to talk about it...

He said he was strong, he always had been, and you don't show your feelings in public. Only let it out when you're alone. When there's no-one to see.

But the words wouldn't stay back, it seemed, and he told me. Not long ago he lost his sister. ("She was my sister," he kept repeating.) The girl who was killed was his other sister's daughter. She died three weeks ago, and he didn't know until a woman on a train told him. All his family is far away, and, it seems, they don't worry about him.

A couple of days ago he had a knife and was going to slit his wrists. A security guard stopped him, took the knife away.

I'm not sure I would have been okay to leave him, except he told me he was on his way to see his brother - well, not really his brother, but like a brother, they've known each other since they were four years old, and he goes to see his brother when he's stressed. So I think, I hope, he'll be okay, for the time being.

But... I suspect, now, it's not that he's dirty because he's an Unhygienic Person, which... I judge people for having poor hygiene standards. I suspect his hygiene may have fallen behind because he's serously depressed.

So what did you do last night, Sami? Aug. 1st, 2009 @ 11:29 am
So, last night was pretty interesting.

I went to Northbridge, which is the city's major nightclub/bar district - this will be important later - to take pictures of John Robertson's show, Don't Swallow, at the Blue Room Theatre. (Note to Perth folks: go see it! It's really good!)

I arrived about an hour before the show, so I could set up, work out light levels, etc. It turned out to be extremely fortunate, as I spent at least twenty minutes grappling with the fact that my tripod - which I'd never really used before - appears to be broken. The head just WOULD NOT stay on.

Fortunately, I eventually had the brainwave that I was in a theatre, and if there wasn't a roll of gaffer tape around somewhere, these people were doing it wrong. (Needless to say, when I asked, gaffer tape was procured in seconds.) So I taped the tripod head on place with adequate security for me to be able to use it, and proceeded with working out camera settings for the evening.

I ended up going for full manual mode, which felt all hardcore, but the conditions weren't right for automation - not just for the low-and-changing light levels, and the moving subject, but also the fact that sometimes the background was charcoal-coloured curtains, and sometimes it included a six-foot high white image of a hand - between them they threw out the camera's light metering crazily. (Also, John was wearing dark clothing but has white skin. My camera's software is crying right now.)

Whereas I could cope because I am awesome. I ended up going with a fixed ISO speed and aperture and adjusting to light changes with shutter speed variation (partly because I knew, from having seen the show, that he moved around less when the lights were lower).

Both John and I were assured by Jo, the stage manager, that if we got "two good shots" we had absolute and total success.

I'm pretty sure we got those two good shots - but it'll be fun picking them out of the 1,647 pictures I took.

*cough*

Personal highlights of the evening for me, before the later bit I'm going to tell you about:

- John, rehearsing a bit of the show he'd cut the previous evening because byplay with the sign 'terp took up so much (hilariously well-occupied) time, and which, therefore, I hadn't heard before, and grinning as I, still messing around taping my tripod into usability, was giggling in the corner all the way through. (Fortunately, having someone laugh at the jokes does not disturb the preparation of a comedian, or at least not John.)

- The one guy in the audience who wasn't far from me and my camera, who kept looking at me, and seemed to find it funnier if I was laughing at the jokes. I wondered if he assumed it *had* to be hilarious if the photographer was also laughing. (It is true that I laughed much less last night than I did the night before; I enjoy good jokes I've heard before, but I don't laugh as much, and in any case last night I was preoccupied with concentrating on my camera. I still laughed a lot. At least some of the pictures that came out blurry are John's fault for being funny. [livejournal.com profile] harveystoat I WOULD TAKE BETTER PICTURES OF YOUR COMEDY SHOW IF YOU DIDN'T KEEP MAKING ME LAUGH.)

- Feeling almost like a real photographer, as I tested light levels and shot options and so on. It's easier, in the digital age, I acknowledge that freely - I could take many hundreds of shots, I didn't have to change film, I could see how my pictures were doing by pressing the review button and *looking* at a small version of them, which is more than adequate for checking how light and colour balances are doing. But I was thinking about light, and composition, and photographing a performance I was attending classed as stage crew. (This was actually an important point; the show was sold out, but venue capacity limits allow for six stage crew in addition to the audience.)

- Being able to see the show for the second time, and pick which bits are spontaneous and which bits are scripted. I think John is a really gifted comic, because a lot of the stuff that feels spontaneous the first time you see it is stuff he's written in advance and is just playing really well, and the stuff that's spontaneous is consistently funny. (Seriously, Perth people, go see his show.)

After the show I copied off all the images I'd taken to Jo's laptop, then headed home. On the way back to the train station, my attention was caught by the sound of singing to acoustic guitars. Below the steps of the James Street Cultural Centre was pulled up a van, labelled on the sides for \DrugArm WA Information & Support. (Looking up their website, I see they're a Christian organisation, but they appear to be a Christian organisation in the "... and that's a good thing" sense.)

On the steps and around the area, a surprising number of people were gathered. A couple of children included. I took a couple of photos - I'll put them up later, right now I have to run to take my tripod back to the shop while they're still open today.

I am at risk of failing again, I think Jul. 27th, 2009 @ 12:43 pm
I have a few major loves in my life, and it's hard to decide which to focus on. (ADHD does not help in this.) I love history, and I'm good at it; I also love Linguistics, and I'm reasonably good at it; I love playing guitar, though I'm not very good at it at all, but I'm gradually improving, teaching myself to be better; I love photography, and I'm oka~ay at it but also improving... alongside a bunch of other various things I like and have different degrees of skill at, like craft projects and so on.

Most things become kind of random hobbies I pick up and drop when the mood suits me.

But I love history, linguistics, photography, and music.

I have no pretensions of getting "serious" about music. I'm serious, for my standards, about keeping it up; I've continued practicing with a dedication that's not normally my style, I've spent serious money on relevant equipment (e.g. my guitar, which is medium-grade for levels of expensiveness in terms of guitars generally, but extremely expensive for levels of a) guitars for beginners and b) stuff bought by me ever at all). It's a mixture of serious hobby and medical equipment, since it's important for my mental health. (As endorsed by my psychologist and proven by personal experience.)

I do have intentions of getting serious about history and/or linguistics; I'm still wavering a bit on which, for a whole bunch of reasons. I love them both, I'm slightly better at history, but career prospects are probably better in linguistics, but I kind of want to be able to use both in my life.

And what would be awesome would be to be able to combine them also with photography. Ideas like going places that are at risk of cultural obliteration and record the language, the history, the way of life - including photojournalistic-type photography thereof. (Yes, I realise that, if I'm not very very careful, this idea has high fail risk. That's not actually the risk I'm talking about in the subject, because that's a vague and distant notion.)

The thing is: photography. Right now, a hobby, but I want to do things with it. I've taken some nice landscape shots here and there, I've taken some neat pictures of animals and of people, I've taken a couple of shots I even like as photojournalistic style... but I want to do some kind of real photographic documentation.

And I had an idea, of sorts, brought up by some recent frustrations and readings and so on: a photo essay on people with disabilities. (Visible and invisible, though representing the disability aspect with the latter is going to be an interesting challenge, when you take into account the rest of what I'm about to explain I want to do with this.)

The thing being, I want to do a photo essay on PWD that is carefully constructed, as much as I possibly can, not to elicit the faintest shred of sympathy.

Because that's not what I'm after, at all - I want a photo essay that's about PWD being people. Pictures of PWD living, laughing, doing - sometimes competent and dignified, sometimes joyfully undignified and silly and having fun. Pictures of management/treatment/medical-type stuff presented in a business-like way, as a part of daily life. I want a compilation from which a hypothetical viewer will take a message that PWD have a lot of stuff to deal with that able-bodied people don't, but the point is that they do deal - with a subsection of presentation of accessibility fail areas that make the fail look like roll-your-eyes idiocy.

I'm not sure how to really go about getting people to be in these pictures, though. Some of them I can do using elements of my own life, as I have some disability issues of my own, but a lot of them I really, really can't.

Challenging concepts are challenging.

Current Music: linguistics lecturer talking - am bad person, in tutorial


Music and the Mind Jul. 8th, 2009 @ 02:12 pm
In complement to my current (for some months now) obsession with music, I picked up a copy of Musicophilia, by Dr Oliver Sacks. So far I've barely begun reading it, having started on the preface, but it starts with an interesting point I've never really thought about before:

Music has no evolutionary benefit to humans, no real practical virtues to speak of. It's an odd odd thing, almost unique to humans (in that there are some songbirds which sing duets and so on, but that's about it for music in the animal kingdom) yet universal across human societies and cultures. Every human group has music, musical instruments started being invented very early... it's like music has always been with us, is what sets us apart from the animals... and yet, there's no good reason for it.

But music matters. Music can transport us. Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, as it is said, although it is also often incorrectly said "beast" as well.

Some might suggest that music is not for all humanity, because you have to be able to hear it to appreciate it.

To which I say: SEZ YOU, hypothetical people!

First, consider the great composers who were deaf. Beethoven, for example. As Terry Pratchett put it, deafness doesn't stop composers from hearing the music, it only stops them hearing the distractions. But of course, Beethoven went deaf in his late twenties.

Big deal.

Allow me to point out the existences of:

1) Shawn Dale Barnett. Deaf drummer.

2) Beethoven's Nightmare, genuinely awesome rock band - all of whom are deaf.

Unsurprisingly, Beethoven's Nightmare rock some heavy drum and bass, because it's the rhythm and the vibrations that deaf people feel - the point being, it's still there. Maybe a deaf person would struggle to get much enjoyment out of a piccolo, but on the other hand, so do lots of hearing people. (ObMusicJokes here.)

There are, of course, many other deaf musicians and dancers. Those are random easy examples.

(I personally would probably be highly reluctant to attend a rock concert intended for deaf people, but then, these days I wouldn't go to rock concerts intended for hearing people either without an awful lot of incentive and some high-quality earplugs, and not just because pain issues cause crowds to make me extra nervous - due to past acoustic shock injury, sounds above certain frequences, at volume, cause me acute pain in and of themselves. Rock concerts are too loud for me, but that's just me. And no, I don't think becoming artificially deaf in one ear would help. I suspect I'd keep the pain but lose the benefit of actually being able to hear out of my left ear.)

Music is the unique birthright of humanity. Dr Sacks said in his interview on the Daily Show that rhythm is deep-set in the human brain - even after things like strokes, the sense of rhythm remains, and music can persist when language has been lost. Animals don't have a sense of rhythm - you can't teach a dog to dance.

So the question is, why? Many different answers have been proposed. The one some scientists would become instantly ragewaddish at (I'm thinking PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, et al) is of course: God did it. Music is the divine gift to humanity.

Personally, that's an option I neither believe nor discount, but it's a lovely thought, to me.
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