Sunday, December 23, 2012


So, today's post is motivated by the same thing which usually motivates the first post after an accidental long blog hiatus: I discussed blogs with someone and they were all "oh, you have a blog? I should check it out!" and even though you know people basically never follow through on that sort of thing, you're all "maybe I'll check if my last post is any good, juuuuust in case!". And since usually the last post in any given rash of posting is a bit ho-hum, I get all motivated to write a new one to be the thing at the top of the page. Especially given how irredeemably smug my last post reads as being, in retrospect. I mean, good lord.

So, the subject of today's ramblings is this: what do you reckon about personality test type things? It seems to be the sort of thing which people just find sort of inherently appealing. There's probably some sort of deep lesson about the human condition and the universal need for labels and affirmation or something in it. The Myers-Briggs personality types have come up in conversation or online 3 or 4 times recently, so I was idly trying to figure out what "type" I am this evening, and it really is an awful lot like the tests we all used to take on in high school, which seems somehow incredibly lame in retrospect but which in year 9 we thought were absolutely fascinating and hilarious.

The problem with these sorts of things is that they tend to ask you to generalise about yourself, which is difficult, because people to tend to have pretty nuanced views of themselves, surely? Plus I tend to over think these things and feel like it's totally a big commitment and you have to get the answers right, because, like everyone, I'm a bit weird that way sometimes. I feel like I'm expressing myself badly, but here's an example:

 Extraverted Characteristics
  • Act first, think/reflect later
  • Feel deprived when cut off from interaction with the outside world
  • Usually open to and motivated by outside world of people and things
  • Enjoy wide variety and change in people relationships
Introverted Characteristics
  • Think/reflect first, then Act
  • Regularly require an amount of "private time" to recharge batteries
  • Motivated internally, mind is sometimes so active it is "closed" to outside world
  • Prefer one-to-one communication and relationships
See, even though I know I'm not actually making a choice which will have any impact on my actions or life in any way, I'm still all "I have to pick between feeling deprived when cut off from interaction with the outside world" and "regularly requiring an amount of "private time" to recharge batteries"? Oh no! I might have to follow through on this someday and never interact with people/be alone (delete whichever is inappropriate) again! Aaargh!" Leaving aside that sort of crazy-talk, and also how euphemistic "private time to recharge batteries" kind of sounds, who... who doesn't need both? I feel like choosing to retreat and be alone for a little while is a world away from being actually cut off. I mean, one sounds like you're reading a book in your room by yourself, and the other one sounds like the Chateau d'If.

And the other aspects seem similar; I don't feel like most people are all the way at either end of any spectrum between "notices tasks and work to be accomplished" and "sensitive to people's needs and reactions". I mean, are those things even on the same spectrum? Plus, surely if you care about the people whose needs you're noticing, that's essentially the same thing as noticing a task that needs doing? Like "oh, this person seems hungry, I should hand her a sandwich!", right? I mean, I realise it's more complicated than that, and that's why you'd get actual psychologists to administer actual tests if you cared about the answer, rather than just googling "online free myers briggs test", but still, it somehow seems reductive.

And then, once you've finished trying to decide if you work best closer to deadlines or find it less stressful to do stuff in advance (which again, surely everyone is more or less both?) you get a Type (mine seeeems to be ENFP for those of you playing at home), you can get a description, and here's where I always get suspicious.

The description for ENFP, for instance, is "Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. Make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns they see. Want a lot of affirmation from others, and readily give appreciation and support. Spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency", and in fairness, that does sound an awful lot like me, to me. But who doesn't consider themself "warm"? Who doesn't desire affirmation, to some extent? Isn't that whole thing more or less true of most people?

The diametrical (diametric or diametrical? Is this one of those words like oriented and orientated which are the same thing but sometimes just have an extra syllable for kicks, because hey why not?) opposite to ENFP, then, is ISTJ, which is "Quiet, serious, earn success by thoroughness and dependability. Practical, matter-of-fact, realistic, and responsible. Decide logically what should be done and work toward it steadily, regardless of distractions. Take pleasure in making everything orderly and organized – their work, their home, their life. Value traditions and loyalty." Obviously you wouldn't find all that many people rushing to describe me as "quiet and serious" but I sort of like to think of myself as being fairly dependable and responsible. So maybe if it had given me that answer I'd have thought "I guess I am quiet sometimes, like when I'm feeling shy, or am tired or whatever? Wow, deep, this test saw through my non-quiet facade!"? I mean, I'm pretty gullible about these things.

This goes for other systems like this, for the record. Like star signs; I'm not just hacking shit on Jungian psychological theory here. I used to work with a woman who had star sign mug which explained to anyone who cared to read it that she was charismatic and open-hearted and thoughtful, which I'm sure she thought was uncanny in its accuracy. If you gave me an hour to list all the adjectives I could think of to describe her, though, I doubt very much that I'd've come up with a single one of those words.

It's like that sign that was doing the rounds a while ago, "how to care for introverts" (like so: of which step 2 is "NEVER embarrass them in public", which seems bizarre to me, since that surely goes (in theory without saying) for, again, all humans? And even cats probably! Which people are all "man, I can't get enough of being publicly embarrassed!" apart from maybe reality tv folks? And even then they probably don't like the bits they think of as being embarrassing, surely?

I dunno, man. It just all seems pretty suss to me.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Us and Them

So I was talking to someone the other day, and apart from being generally very lovely, she said a couple of things which suddenly abruptly reminded me of the gap between her generation and mine. They were jarring enough, in fact, that I'm still not totally sure that she wasn't just trying to get a reaction.

Firstly, when I said that I was at Canterbury hospital at the moment, she joked about how it's a surprise that the women in that area are able to have operations, because of how they're totally all Muslim and won't want anyone to see them undressed (which, what? I'm not a veiled "modestly dressed" chick, but I don't go around showing people my bits & pieces left right and centre, so surely when it comes to things like undressing for operations your average Muslim woman and I are on the same page, viz. "alright, I guess I must, sigh"?) A bit later she said that it was ridiculous that the whole hospital catering had probably been thrown off because it was the fasting month and that was silly and inconsiderate of them. (To be honest, I was almost impressed that she even knew it was Ramadan at the moment) This is someone who I remember once making a joke about how any Muslim person is likely to unexpectedly blow you and themselves up or shoot people who make jokes about them.

This sort of thing always throws me, because WHAT. Leaving aside the obvious but frivolous note that I can understand that you might want to shoot someone who's carrying on like that, there's the fact that it's just completely bollocks. Most mass murders, statistically, are committed by well-off white American men. Also, Ramadan comes, as I understand it, with specific disclaimers, like that if you're too old or too young or too sick or whatever, you should eat appropriately. Much like you're allowed to eat non-Halal food if you're starving. I mean, this sensible stuff is literally written into the Qu'ran in a way that it isn't in the Bible, probably because they'd had almost a thousand years to observe the way the other religions of the Book were going and to notice which things were causing big problems before Islam even started. It's got crazy fundamentalists just like Christianity has the Westboro Baptist Church, but on the whole it's a pretty sensible religion. I would be pretty horrified if people went "you're a WASP sort of chick in a predominantly christian culture, therefore you must be just like those "GOD HATES FAGS & LOVES DEAD SOLDIERS" Westboro dudes!" and I seriously think it's pretty much equivalent

Secondly, I jokingly referred to one of my friends in a way which might have made it sound like he was a potential boyfriend, and to forestall the whole misunderstanding, I said that he was "as gay as a hatful of glitter" which is not the sort of thing I would say about someone with whom I was not close, or someone who might not like being described like that, but which is a way to describe some of my friends which has the advantage of sounding as fond as I am of them. But she maybe didn't hear me properly, and asked me to repeat what I'd said and then went "Oh! A poofter! Why didn't you just say he was a poofter?". I don't even think I said anything, I think I just sort of blinked in a taken-aback way at that point. I wanted to say "because I'm a good person? Because that's not the sort of language I have any right or inclination to use? Just like I wouldn't describe a black person as a "nigger", that's just not a word I ever ever use?" (Man, I don't even like to type words like that, but I definitely feel like it's important to be clear in a discussion like this. Still, I apologise to anyone offended my my use of such horrible terminology!)

I remember once, as a child of maybe 10, wandering into a room in which some family friends were talking/laughing and asking what they I'd missed: what was the conversation about? And a middle aged, well-educated grown man looked up at me, a 10 year old, and said "we're talking about pillow-biters". To this day I recall thinking "That's not a nice thing to say. It's not a nice thing to say at all, but it certainly isn't something you should say to me, I'm only a child!" I mean, you know you're doing it wrong when even the kid you're talking to knows that this isn't language to use to children, that it's vulgar and inappropriate and weirdly reduces entire people's personhood to one particular sex act.

I think I've never really managed to get on board with that sort of jokes, with jokes based on the "Othering" of people and groups. I mean, I suppose that implies that I never told an Irish joke, which is obviously not true, but since during my youth I was not in any way aware of the tensions between Ireland and Britain or the long history of discrimination which the Irish have faced, the Irish were, to me, not a Them, but merely a subset of Us. They existed in our lives exclusively as attractive people with great accents, so it never seemed like they were the oppressed, just that "irish" was a handy joke-shorthand for "stupid person who is going to be the butt of this joke" (which now I come to say it still sounds terrible, actually).

Maybe it's because I have so many friends and acquaintances from so many walks of life? This is especially true in this era of facebook, I'm constantly reminded of the lives and individuality of friends who I'd otherwise have forgotten. But I have a lot of friends who are gay, who are Muslim, and even, gasp!, who are Irish. None of these groups are a Them to me, they are Us.

Maybe I am so inclusive in my Us-ing that it loses all meaning? I mean, I tend to pretty much assume that all people are doing the best that they can in this crazy old world etc., so that the Us is pretty much everyone and the Them is maybe viruses, mosquitoes, aliens/zombies/etc. as well as iniquity, entropy, and the harsh realities of the world. We're all against those things, even is some of Us try to fight them in ways which make others among Us think of them as Them, as exacerbating the problem.

Is this just privelege, though? Is it easy for me to grandly gesture around me at all the people of the world and be all "See how inclusive and great I am?! I think we're all in this together! Us!" like Mufasa: "Everything the light touches, Simba". I mean, it probably is. I assume most people are on the same team as me because I've never really suffered. I've never been systematically victimised or done down by other people, I am not Them to anyone but the oppressed, so I magnanimously forgive their resentment? This is obviously true, that this is all incredibly redolent of middle class privelege. The only "minority" group to which I belong is "women" and we make up half the population. Sure there is some male privelege to which I have no access, but it's certainly true that women are also priveleged in other ways, and that being as educated-upper-middle-class-white-Australian as I am, I'm one of those women for whom the gender gap is rendered least obtrusive and intrusive. I can happily get outraged about the terrible things that happen to women who are poor or American or Iraqi or in an ethnic minority or undereducated or just plain unlucky, safe in the knowledge that the odds are good that none of that will happen to me.

So, self-analysis aside, I generally just really don't get Us and Them thinking. I don't understand what Americans don't understand about universal healthcare being good because it stops the poor dying and the dying being impoversished. I don't understand why "stop the boats" politicians can happily say "Australia hasn't got room for EVERYONE! We have finite resources!" but don't see the need to address the problem of what refugees should do next, if no country in the world will have them. For some people that's Them so it's Their Problem, but I've always sort of felt like that was some of Us being subjected to injustices at home, Us who might drown, Us who have literally nowhere to go.I just... I just don't understand.

It's also a big thing in aging, I think, this Us and Them thinking. My grandmother is 100, so people always seem to treat her as if she were either a child or just a very serious humourless old person. Which is not how you would treat any other adult. It's weird that people object to the idea of old people having sex or drinking. It's weird that no-one ever jokes with them or is silly and frivolous. I don't know if it's that we're so afraid that one day we'll be old that we tell ourselves that really they were never young like us.

I really think that even if "We are all Us" is the great white lie, and ignores the difficulties faced by many people who lack our priveleges, if you have to err (and you pretty much do, because you're only human) it's surely better to err on the side of inclusiveness. Better to end up thinking of everyone as Us until 'Them' becomes meaningless than to end up in an ivory tower with a tiny select group of Us, sneering down at the masses of Them. That way lies madness, and Nazism, and Godwin's Law.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

10 words

So, one of the guys in our class (a self-sacrificing one, obviously), is putting together a yearbook for our class at uni, since this is our last year. And he sent around things asking for a photo, and a 10 word quote, and a lot of other things, I imagine. I don’t know what question 3 was, or if indeed there was a question 3, because 2 was just such a stumbling block for me. Also, and more importantly, for some reason the version I downloaded went all error 404 and I couldn’t get hold of another copy, and when I asked people, the version they sent seemed, as far as I could tell, to be a totally different series of questions, things like “What were your best and worst moments in Med?” and “Who is your favourite teacher?”.

Since I only have internet on my phone this evening, due to an acute case of being at Grandma’s house, where there’s no wifi except the neighbours’ which is, cruelly and tantalisingly, called “Grandma”, presumably in reference to someone else’s ancestor, and sadly one who has password-security. You can’t get reception here for one of those little gadget things with wifi on them, either, because my grandmother's house is essentially in the side of a stony hill/cliff, and satellites apparently view us as being definitely in the shade of a few tons of rocks. This means that, the deadline for submission being today, and my organisational skills being what you have no doubt come to expect, I’m sadly unlikely to get my thingy submitted.

I always want to do those sort of questionnaires, I mean well, and I open them with the best intentions in the world, but somehow, I’m really not very good at them. I do not know who my favourite teachers were. I’m sure that some of them made an impression, but we haven’t really had lecturers in a meaningful way for like 2 years, and even then, they were sporadic and evanescent. Most people will end up nominating the guy who taught first year anatomy. Mostly they will tell themselves that this is because he was cool and funny (he was mildly funny), but this will not be the real reason, not really. The real reason is that he was the only lecturer who we reliably saw 2 to 3 times a week for most of a year. He’s probably the only name most people even remember. This gives him such a staggering advantage that he really didn’t need the Batman references and the funny voices and the mnemonics which he put in the notes but which didn’t make all that much sense. He was always going to be the only dude anyone could remember the name of. Which is a pity, because we definitely had some whom I liked more. The ones who taught really well, and the ones who I personally thought were more amusing. Tragically, I can’t at all remember the name of the dude who had a sense of humour so dry that it took me almost a month to realise it pervaded his lectures. He was great, although his subject was sadly as dry as his humour, so frankly I don’t know if it helped. Trying to perk up pharmacology (I think it was pharmacology?) with the occasional dry joke is like trying the perk up Uluru by gluing a packet's worth of marshmallows to it. It’s a laudable effort, but you’re never going to make a truly appreciable difference. Also people are likely to object because of the disrespectful vandalism of a piece of world heritage, I guess.

"Best moment" also sort of stumped me, mainly because I’m so self-absorbed that all the things which were actually legitimately Med-related (rather than just happening to be rad road trips with people I met in Med, or hanging out with lovely people or whatever) which were “best” type moments were incredibly twee, like “comforting an old woman whose husband was dying and having her say that I was the only person who’d made her feel better in months”. Which is nice for me to have a moment of smug I’m-a-good-person-ness, but actually sucks for her, and for him, and in the wider implications that people obviously haven’t really been trying very hard at all to comfort her at all.

Worst moments are sort of similar. I remember that for the first week of my 3rd year, I was on ICU rotation, and a patient died every single day I was there. I remember realising that the old guy who I’d made friends with in ICU (partly because he was pretty cool, and partly because he was the only patient there the whole time I was there, and who wasn’t unconscious) had died during my Anaesthetics rotation. I remember being in ED and pumping fluid into the cannula of an old lady who’d come in with no measurable blood pressure at all, until my hand hurt, and being told after 30 minutes to stop, because she wasn’t recovering and wasn’t likely to (I think she actually miraculously did, though, which was nice), and that I should just go back to the area where we hung around waiting to be of any use, and I remember realising that there was nothing I could do, but that I was sort of damned if I was going to give up doing the only thing which might actually help someone which I’d been able to do all week. I also remember the realisation that going “nah, I’ll just stay here, since it doesn’t matter either way and there’s nothing better to do” made me sound simultaneously like I didn’t give a shit and like I thought I was the slow motion hero of a daytime television movie, and didn’t realise that I was an essentially useless and incredibly tiny cog in the machinery of the hospital; not so much a loose cannon who wouldn’t give up on hope, as a loose screw making everyone else’s jobs just that little bit more difficult.

But really, the worst moment I remember recently was standing there uselessly listening to a registrar take a history, like I had done all day every day of that week, every day of that term, and frankly most of the degree, just standing there not really learning because of not really being able to participate, listening to the loud, viscerally distressing, gurgling guttural noise of someone in the next bed having some of the excess phlegm suctioned out of their chests, like I had done every day that week, since that patient had been admitted, while my feet hurt, and thinking “I’m going to spend the next several years of my life doing this and I hate it, but it was my own choice so I can only blame myself, and damned if I’m going to quit now and start all over again. But I wish I could just get a nice sensible desk job, 9-5, with my own chair, my own space, and any actually useful role whatsoever. Why did I quit being a receptionist? God I miss filing and answering phones and being mildly bullied by insecure middle aged women, constantly buoyed by the knowledge that one day I wouldn’t be doing that.”

That was probably my worst “moment”, but honestly, the good and bad in these things don’t really take place in articulated moments. I’ve made some really great friends, and I’m really pleased that one day I’ll be able to actually do something actually useful (or indeed do anything at all!) but that’s not a moment, that’s just a long slow rumbling crescendo of hope. The worst thing has been what that last moment represented, spending years being useless, depressed, surrounded by people like me who were used to being good at things, all being slowly crushed by the knowledge that we aren’t good at this, and that we could never know everything that we ought to know, by the knowledge that each of us will one day have to watch a person die and wonder if it was our own fault, that each of us really will be responsible for someone’s death at some point, and that often that will be something which will never really leave us. It’s been years of standing in hospitals around patients and feeling like we’re part of something which dehumanises them and makes them feel judged and like their dignity, such as it was, is of no value to anyone (seriously, you try to describe the body habitus of an overweight lady who is clearly sensitive about it, in front of her, to a doctor who will correct you if you don’t make it adequately clear that she is overweight, while she lies in bed chilled and exposed, with 4 other well-dressed up and comers standing around her looking at her appraisingly, and tell me you managed it without feeling like you made someone’s day just that extra bit worse. On a day when they’re already in hospital no less), while every single staff member of the hospital system feels like it’s their right and their duty to take us down a peg or two; doctors who’ve already decided that we’re arrogant little twerps who need to be knocked down before we can be rebuilt, nursing staff who are convinced that we hate them and think we’re better than them, no matter how clearly you tell them that you respect them and that the only reason you’re doing Medicine not Nursing is that you’re not actually up to the challenge, who resent us no matter how nice we are to them and no matter how deeply we respect their capabilities, judgement and career.

It hasn’t been a single moment, that worst moment. It’s been one long slow dragging moment which has lasted at least 4 years.

But damned if I want to put that in the yearbook. A yearbook should be a thing of fun! Of nostalgia and “look how young and hopeful we were!” Plus, it’s not always that bad, it’s mainly only that bad for a few hours any given day, or whenever you’re asked to try and decide on what's been the single worst moment of something.

Also, obviously, it saddens me how much more clearly I remember the worsts than the bests. That’s a pity because it’s been quite a nice 4 years really, I’m sure.

But still, the real killer is that 10 word quote thing.

Seriously, what can you say in ten words? This much:

I’ve enjoyed this degree and I reckon that one day}

The best thing about Medicine is that can always}

I hope that in 10 years’ time I can truly}

Can’t wait to graduate and help people and finally earn}

I’m going to really miss uni holidays, but I}

I mean, maybe there are people who could do this, but I am MANIFESTLY not one of those people. I never use 10 words where 1840-so-far would do! And even if I could, I’m not even sure what they’re supposed to be! Are they our hopes for the future? A reflection on the degree? A hilarious out of context quote? I seriously have no idea.

“If I had my time again I’d open a bakery”, how’s that? It's a bit harsh, probably, and also not quite true, since bakers have to get up super early. “Some days this has really sucked but other days I’ve had the wherewithal to hope it sucks less later” is too long, and doesn’t convey the hope I’d like to inject into that latter phrase. Famous quotes like “Why be famous when you can be infamous?” sound sinister. “Hope I’m a better doctor than Med student, good grief!” is nice, accurate and the right length, but I sort of feel like if it’s the only phrase that works, other people will have thought of it too. Plus, there’s the more pressing concerns of (a) what if I’m not, oh dear! And (b) I don’t have access to the damn questionnaire anyway so it’s all for naught.

Maybe he’ll give us all an extension? If he does, I solemnly swear to get organised earlier next time, to use my 10 word thing just there, unless I come up with a better one, to find out the name of a lecturer or teacher I liked, and not to put in all that downer crap about worst moments. It's been quite alright, really. Really it has.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stop Revive Survive

You guys this is the second last day of June, which means 2 more (including this one) June Blog Challenge posts, and then it's back to less often. But! I'm thinking of aiming to blog at least twice a week during July, or something? What are your thoughts? Is it worth trying some sort of "rule" like this? I just sort of feel that without it, I forget to blog for like a year, often. And ideas which would become blog posts are milled down into facebook-status and tweet sized chips, rather than being delivered as a lump like this.

It's 3am at the moment, because despite having had all afternoon and the better part of the evening(in the sense of "large amount" not in the sense of "S opposed to the worse part") in which to blog, I still mysteriously left it until I got home. I did bring my laptop with me, though, in case I should have to pull over for a roadside nap and be implausibly struck with the urge to type then. I guess this is a reasonable thing to think, given that my last stop-revive-survive nap finished with a 45 minute wait for the NRMA to come and jump start my flat battery.

Apparently, despite all the warnings and signs and public awarenes campaigns, and despite the fact that by the time I'm 3 quarters of the way down the M4 I really really feel like all I want to do is sleep, it's actually quite rare to do this? People look at me with surprise, sometimes, when I mention it. Plus, the other day, I casually mentioned the NRMA adventure in a conversation which also featured an old friend and a new acquaintance, and the old friend sort of broke into the conversation at this point to say "you know that thing you're supposed to do where you take a nap? She actually does! Weird, huh?" in a sort of indulgent exculpatory way. It was pretty disconcerting, to be honest. I mean, I know sometimes you don't have time, or a 45 minute nap isn't going to cut it, but if you can, why wouldn't you? Especially given how much your slowly-blinking late-night-driving eyes clearly want you to!

I was going to describe the rest of my evening to you, but seriously I am the sleepiest in the land, so I'll boil it down to just what I've already told twitter:

1; I've got some strong opinions about invitations (facebook, email, text, verbal, anything) which give street names but not street numbers. I hate so much having to walk along a whle street just sort of listening carefully for revelry and trying not to get overwhelmed by social anxiety and maybe-I-should-just-go-home-feeling-ness. For this reason, I'm also a big believer in the bunch-of-balloons-on-the-gate tactic or similar. I hate knocking and just hoping it's the right house so much. Similarly, if your house had a kooky name, like The Palais, of the Hipster Haunt, or the Shack, or even just Shangri-La or whatever which you always fondly refer to it as, feel free to put that on the invite, just make sure you ALSO out the whole address. You friends have a lot of friends, and people move: even the people who've been there before will find a proper address comforting, they can't remember which is the right block, the right apartment number, etc, for each friend! Plus, you can't just put "Tom's house" into your satnav or google maps or whatever, unless you obsessively save all addresses. You are not Salvador Dali. A letter will not reach you addressed only with a picture of a mustache and a country listing on the envelope. Neither (literally or figurativeluy) will your guests.

2: Smoke machines add as much ambience to a small party as an extra 25 guests would, but more quietly, less likely to throw up, and more awesome-looking, depending, of course, on who those 25 people you were going to invite were. It was a ridiculously dense fog, in that house, but it was surreal and delightful, and actually pretty great.

Ok, I'm literally falling asleep here guys, sorry. Goodnight, more tomorrow, and then very probably ever again, at some point!

PS. Can't proofread, eyes keep shutting when I try. Sorry for all the inevitable typos!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

There's not a lot to be done, I fear (insoluble problems)

Do you ever read about the problems of the world, and worry that they're just not really solveable? Like, there might be solutions but they're a damn sight worse than the problems in the first place, or at least, no better? I keep coming back to this today, somehow.

This asylum seeker debate, for instance. It really seems like a lot of people don't give a tuppenny damn about anyone so foolish as to have been born outside Australia. A lot of the arguments have a real vibe of "you should have thought about THAT before you were PEASANTS" to them.

People often advance the argument that our population can only be sustainable up to a certain ceiling and then BAM: droughts, famines, everyone having to feed their fibro houses to their children to save them from starvation, etc. Which is very possibly true, but hardly solves the problem. Firstly, if this is true, then the people who are already alive (like, say, refugees) surely have more right to the planet's limited resources than people who haven't even been born or conceived yet. If we're really concerned about resources, wherefore all the reproducing being encouraged? Maybe we need a one child policy or something? I mean, that engenders its own problems, doesn't it. (See what I did there? I didn't even mean to. That's what we call priming, my friend. You think "problems with the one child policy, and your subconscious goes "here are some words about gender!". Fascinating).

We don't need to engage with the arguments of the distressingly large number of people who simply do not care if other people are suffering if those people are black, or Muslim, or whatever. Their argument clearly has basically no validity, not even pretending to have a proper basis in meaningful reality. But these people are still a problem, since their attitudes leave migrants to form cliques and ghettos, which is essentially pretty definitely not a good thing. I mean, by all means "there's a large Mediterranean and South East Asian population near Maroubra" (that leads to a high availability of delicious things in the shops, for one thing!) but Harlem and the Bronx (I'm sure there are heaps in Sydney, but hardly so recognisable) and so on don't seem like they're working out super well for anyone involved. No-one learns the language or cultural mores of the new country in these cliques, for one thing, which is the sort of knowledge deficit which leaves you disenfranchised and all too easy to exploit. What do you do to solve the problem of racist people? There's no solution to that sort of thing. Freedom of speech, man. Etc. There might be a solution, but damned if I can see what it would be. You can try education, but that's obviously a slow-burner, and doesn't work as reliably as we'd like.

I think the problem that a lot of people secretly have with refugees is the one which they don't really want to look square in the eye: people who have been so badly mistreated that they need to seek refugee status are probably broken and 'no good to us'. No-one (I trust) wants to think of themselves as someone who would happily send someone back to their rapists, assaulters, would-be killers, etc. But people do complain about "those people" bringing their old cultures and old feuds etc with them, which I think is maybe part of the same concept. I mean, it's obviously pretty distressing to talk to someone who doesn't understand why the doctors won't circumcise their infant daughter, and responds "oh well, I guess we'll just have to do it ourselves at home, the old-fashioned way" when you try and explain, and personally, I would very much like it if there were no more of that ANYWHERE, and especially here where we have some hope of actually stopping it.

But I do sort of worry that the current response to "you are too broken by your toxic culture or dreadful experiences" is "therefore we will send you back to continue the cycle!". I feel like, frankly, given the choice of being shipped back to somewhere like the places some refugees are trying to escape, I would genuinely prefer the short sharp shock of drowning aboard a leaky people-smuggling boat. And sending them home is often not muh better even in simpler criteria since it's not so rare (or surprising) that these people often don't survive long when shipped back.

I feel like Jonathan Swift here, all "Modest Proposal" and what have you, but I feel like I see where these policies of "deterrence" etc are going. Can you see it coming, the logical conclusion of that sort of thinking? One day someone will realise that keeping people in refugee prisons is very expensive, as is sending them home, and that some people who can't go home are expensive for society because they're so traumatised and need a lot of health care etc. One day, some politician will realise that the distillation of these policies is having a rule, a very well-publicised rule, that if you seek refugee status here, you will either be accepted or executed. That way, the prison problem is solved, the 'people who are pretty much too broken by trauma to function anywhere' problem is solved, and the 'sometimes the reason that you can't go home is that you're a psychopath or serial killer or miscellaneous terible person who will cause trouble wherever you are' problem is solved. Not to mention the presumably entirely fictional political-football problem of people going "what have we got to lose? Screw it, let's try our luck!", since if what you've got to lose is everything, you'll only be tempted if you have nothing to lose or if you genuinely think you can make a go of it.

But that, of course, although apparently sound logically, is pretty monstrous.

And this is the thing, the only way to solve this problem we have here is to solve the problem of massive disparity and overwhelmingly dreadful asshattery everywhere, and I'm really not sure it can be done. My charming and well-meaning ex-boyfriend thinks that a revolution will solve many of these problems, but he also seems to genuinely believe that property is theft, and that the Reign of Terror after the French revolution was a necessary evil, or possibly even a necessary meh. I mean, what I'm saying here is that it's all very well to suggest we should overhaul the system, since it's clearly broken, but I pretty much do not want to have the people who want to do that in charge of my life, in general. Plus I'm concerned that despite being in general very delightful, he seemed, if I understood and recall correctly, distressingly ok with the idea that a revolution might entail torturing people for information, which not only doesn't actually work but is also the sort of thing which I personally consider a dealbreaker in a revolution. (And, if I'd been quite sure that that's what he really believed, something of a dealbreaker in a boyfriend too, even if he was very handsome and nice (and now single, ladies!)).

I'm not sure what I'm more worried about:

1)that things might just carry on as they are despite being clearly not really ok, on a worldwide scale, or 2) that the crazy Teaparty type conservatives will have a resurgence and it'll be eugenics and racial purity and barefoot-and-pregnant-in-the-kitchen all round before you know it, or 3) that the opposite-side extremists will get their resurgence instead, and the whole world will end up like North Korea, and no-one will have to pay rent, but also no-one will be able to own their bedroom, or have pets who aren't productive (and yes, I checked, apparently dogs and cats which are productive of happiness don't count), and society will collapse in an unpleasant way.

I'm not happy with things as they are, worldwide. I don't want genital mutilation or drowning or imprisoned refugees to happen, let alone starvation and child-armies etc. But if the option is choosing between exploding or imploding the world, that's definitely not ideal either.


Movies with Chris Hemsworth in

You guys, I think I'm becoming an old lady. I went, on a whim, with some friends to a movie this evening, which started at 9:10, and by halfway through I was already totally ready to curl up in bed. Looks like even though I've ended up sitting up in bed writing blog posts at midnight the last few days, my secretly-elderly circadian rhythms are not fooled: they know (it knows? I feel like circadian rhythms should be plural, even though I know it's really just that one rhythm, but maybe I'm syncopated dnough to count it as two) that I ought to be at least making tokenistic bedwards motion by 10ish.

I mean, in fairness, I'd seen the movie before (twice) but it was the Avengers, which is pretty watchable. Not vastly surprising on the third viewing in as many months, but definitely still pretty good, still enough that a proper 26 year old wouldn't find themselves distracted by idle dreams of bed.

It's funny, actually, how much the movie lost by watching it in a cinema with only about 10 people in it. When I saw it on the opening weekend, it was in packed cinemas full of geeks who obligingly laughed en masse at every joke, which made the nuances and the little slivers of humour, for which Whedon is so beloved, easier to appreciate, easier to notice. I suppose this is what the people who came up with canned "studio audience" laughter were going for, but could never capture.

Maybe it's the spontaneity? Maybe it sounds audibly nothing like genuine laughter? Maybe it's the fact that there's a big difference between someone telling you a joke, and the person next to you going "That's pretty funny!" versus the person who's doing the telling nudging you and going "Eh? Geddit, geddit? I'm pretty funny, huh?". Maybe it's just that if you know you can simply add manufactured laughter, you don't actually need to try so hard to earn it. Which is maybe why it always seemed to devolve into characters making an entrance and then standing there like idiots waiting for the laugh to finish, as if the very act of entering a room was in itself inherently humourous, and even hilarious, reliably so, no matter how often you did it.

The problem with blogging about movies themselves, of course (yes, that's what we're talking about now, suddenly, try to keep up) is that everyone does so. Not that I'm too much of a unique and beautiful snowflake to do what the 'common people' are doing, you understand, but more that Australia tends to get movies last, it seems, and I never really go on opening nights, generally. So after I watch a movie, assuming I'm in the mood to dissect it (and frankly, I often feel like even trying to decide how to answer "did you like that movie?" is too much overthinking for many movies to sustain, so blogging would definitely dent my ability to rewatch and enjoy mindlessly) then generally most of the things worth saying have been said, more concisely and articulately (not to say accurately) by people whose actual job it is, let alone just the hordes of highly dedicated bloggers with a particular interest in movies. Light entertainment is serious business to a lot of people, and there's not what you'd call a lot of scope for the dilettante.

So, for instance, in Snow White & the Huntsman the other day, I kept wanting to take notes to remind me of what I wanted to write about it (which doesn't speak well for it's being a terribly absorbing movie), and indeed, having left my notebook at home by accident, I scribbled all over the inside of a paper wrapper in my handbag.

Problem is, it turns out that there've already been countless articles about how impressively derivative the movie was (seriously, you could basically do a version by just copy-pasting the scenes they'd stolen from earlier movies into order and uploading it to youtube (in fact do that, I want to watch THAT instead. You'll want bits of the 1930s Disney Snow White, Artax's death in the Neverending Story, the weird sibling vibe from Game of Thrones, and the sudden aging from that movie with Cabbage Patch dolls which I watched as a small child and by which I was TOTALLY TERRIFIED for reasons which now absolutely escape me. (Still don't like cabbage patch dolls, in fact, but this is partly because they're just dreaful.) Also Lord of the Rings, the fireswamp scene from the Princess Bride, and maybe the scenes of childhood from Ever After?)) (Three sets of nested parentheses?! I personal best?). People had also wriiten, with entirely called-for outrage about the casting of non-short-statured people in one of the few roles those poor short-statured actors could actually rely on getting. It was a bit like the scandal after Willy Wonka, except that not only did they hire full-height actors to play dwarves, they also gave them stupid haircuts and 1 dimensional characters (yes I know that was in the Disney version, but so was a lot of stuff, like narrative continuity, and there was no truck with that here)(well, less. Certainly they changed the story enough that they could happily have fixed the dwarves) and generally made them caricatures.

One of the short statured actors I heard quoted compared it to casting white actors doing black-face, and it seriously was pretty much exactly like that. I mean, it's not as if these people have managed to get far enough past discrimination that they can look back on this crap and laugh, just yet. I mean, it hasn't been a full year since the last time a short statured person was badly injured when some idiot decided to pick them up and throw them because dwarf tossing sounds hilarious and "midgets" don't matter. (The fact that they cast a dude who's over 6 foot to play Gimli wasn't great either, but at least that was only one dude. And at least he wasn't wearing a stick stuck in his ear and being creepy but childlike at Kristen Stewart). Plus the director was all "but we wanted well known people!" Which fools no-one, since the dwarves weren't in the ads, and how will short-statured actors ever GET well known if you never cast them, even as the seven bloody dwarves?

So those bits of review are out, which just leaves: I don't know if anyone has already written about the impressively terible haircuts on some of the dudes, but I suspect so, they must've, surely. The Beautiful Wicked Queen carries on about how she's got to be beautiful as a woman, because that's her power, and hangs out with a brother who's creepy and predatory and sort of rapey, and also has bad acne scarring and seriously the worst haircut ever.

Is this some kind of incredibly handfisted message about how beauty is only important in women in our society but less so for men? Because if so, casting 2 beautiful girls who are having a fight about who is "fairest" and also a few dudes who can barely act but are decorative does rather detract from that. I mean, it's all very well to try to credit them with being hamfisted in trying to underline the iniquity of the culture of beauty, but frankly, it's a bunch more believable to read it as a hamfisted attempt to perpetrate just that sort of thing which we might imagine them to be criticising.

Plus: why does he have such a terrible haircut (I wish I could find a picture, I do), when no-one could ever deliberately have that haircut in the first place, let alone if they were hanging out with someone that style conscious all the time. Mum suggested that maybe he's supposed to be stuck with that hair because that's what he had in the flashback to him as a kid, but Charlize Theron changes her hair, and he wouldn't've had the acne scarring as a kid. No, I'm afraid there's no point in overthinking it at all, this was just a choice made by idiots to make Charlize Theron look more glamourous by comparison (as if that were necessary) and him look creepier (as if that were necessary, what with the aforementioned rapiness), or at best to distract all our follicular attention away from the fact that Chris Hemsworth and Kristen Stewart seem to be perpetually damp for no plot-based reason.

In one scene, we see the Huntsman dive into water early in the morning, then we cut to them in the forest saying "we've been running for ages!", apparently like 6 hours later, since it's now late afternoon, and there's still water literally dripping out of his hair and beard. It's like someone read that bit in Bridget Jones where she keeps going on about how great wet-shirt-Darcy is and just really really took that to heart, and therefore doused Thor superfluously between every take. Either that or we're meant to think he has like a really serious sweating problem, I guess? I feel like that sort of thing would make it hard to hunt effectively, though, what with animals having a keen sense of smell. Mind you, no reference is ever made to him in any way hunting anything at any time, perhaps Huntsman is just his name? Like Smith!

The moral of this story, obviously, is that actually I can write a ridiculous amount about even the tiniest detail in an otherwise largely sort of pleasantly meh movie, so maybe it really is for the best that I don't do so very often? I mean, all this from a couple of weird stylist choices. Imagine what'd happen if I watched Schindler's List!

PS Alex was the only person to request a topic of blog, and he requested "unedited stream of consciousness" so this is his fault, and also yours for not suggesting something better yourself, like "Bear vs Tiger vs Shark: who would win?" or "can conflict in the middle east ever be resolved?" or even, like, "blankets" or something.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


It was pretty cold in Penrith on Sunday night. So cold that when I went to my car at 10 to 8, the windscreen wipers skittered over ice rather than bunching all the frost up at the end of the arc like it normally does on a cold wintry morning. Comes of being a long way inland, apparently. Further from that big blue thermally dense ocean which takes longer to heat up and cool down with the seasons, so that coastal suburbs are warmer in winter and cooler in summer. I suppose that being at the foot of the Blue Mountains, but uphill from the river might have something to do with it too? Pressure zones and precipitation and what have you.

Anyway, I was whingy, because I'm in NICU (neonatal intensive care) this week, and there's nowhere for students to leave coats or scarves, and you aren't allowed to wear anything with sleeves that come past the elbow. When it comes to protecting tiny little sick babies from infection risks, these people do not mess about, so no cuffs are allowed to dip germs onto the tiny under-ripe patients. This wasn't so bad for me, since my bare forearms and I were only out in the cold for maybe 10 minutes in total. Our poor old dogs, however, were not so lucky.

Usually they seem pretty happy in their kennels, which have floors so they're not lying on hard wet ground, and they've finally gotten past the stage of dragging the bedding out of the kennels to play with and destroy during the day, but leaving them less warm and comfy at night. Still, when you're an arthritic old collie with un underactive thyroid (this makes you feel the cold more, for those of you who are as familiar with what the hell thyroids do as I was before I had to start doing things like sit exams on them), it turns out, a kennel on an icy night is about as warm as it looks, fur notwithstanding.

When Mum went to let them off the chain (they're chained (by a pretty long chain each, don't worry) to a tree in our yard, able to get to kennels and food and water and a reasonable radius of playing space, because if there's one thing our dogs agree on, it's that 5 acres of yard to run around in is nothing compared to the thrills of escaping over the cattle grid in the driveway and having adventures like "going to the Kingswood Pub and being patted by delighted dudes drinking Tooheys New" and "playing tag with the neighbour's teens while they try to ride their dirtbikes and not accidentally fall off trying to avoid a cheerful, supportively barking, dog" and "trying to get run over on the nearby Motorway") on Monday morning, one of them actually yelped when he tried to stand up, because the poor thing had practically frozen in position, what with cold and arthritis and what have you. So at the moment, these last couple of nights, we're experimenting with letting them sleep inside.

It's sort of funny actually. Remember when you were a kid, and you went on long drives in the evening, like coming home after a big day at the zoo, or driving back from a holiday? Remember when you used to pretend to be asleep when you got home, pretend that you hadn't woken up in the backseat when the car had pulled in the driveway, so your parents would carry you in to bed? (Don't give me that "no" look, every kid does this, I'm pretty sure. I definitely remember pulling this off up to the point when my mother put me down on the sofa and I figured that if I was really asleep I'd slide off (what? Why, tiny past self? You've slept on that sofa before! I know you're floppy when you're asleep, but you're not Alex Mack, you don't turn into a liquid. Floppy isn't the same as runny) and slithered off the sofa onto the floor, still with my eyes closed, trying to act as asleep as possible, not realising my mother was still watching me until she said "You know, people who are asleep don't actually do that, so how about you go put your pyjamas on and go to bed" and I was all "Curses, foiled! I would've gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you infuriatingly canny parents!") The dogs are sort of doing that in the evenings, because they don't really believe their good luck. Lying around looking conspicuously Asleep and watching you through one very slightly open eye, just to see if you're buying it, and will let them stay in, unaware that you're already planning to.

I have to say, they've gotten the hang of it awfully well, not running about all night or soiling the hall or eating the furniture. I guess it's silly that this has surprised us, since they often spend chunks of the day, and certainly most evenings, lying around the house, napping in weird positions, and they've been up to that challenge for years. (Like, really quite weird positions, though. There's one of them who always seems to sleep with his head either up on something, or down, but almost never on the same level as his body. You'll find him apparently perfectly comfortably asleep with his head hanging off a step, or propped up 90 degrees on a wall. Either that or having in some way wedged himself somewhere. Unless he's totally exhausted (or his thyroid hormone is under-replaced), in which case he sometimes lies dead straight, on his side, with his legs straight out, like he was innocently standing there and was suddenly petrified into position and then knocked over. A bit like Rowdy in Scrubs.) Anyway, now we sort of feel guilty of suspecting them of not being able to comport themselves with dignity overnight, but rather pleased. My parents keep telling each other how soundly they (the dogs) seem to have slept, and how charming it was that Darcy decided to eschew the towels we put out as bedding, and instead sleep on the scrubs lying by the door to be taken back to the hospital, with a couple of pairs of Crocs by way of underlay.

I realise that maybe choosing to write an entire blog post about your dogs sleeping inside is a bit odd, but it's really a surprisingly large mental gear-shift for us, because our yard is so big that we always think of them as spending a lot of time outside roaming free, even though they don't much, that's just what we hoped they'd be able to do, before we discovered their penchant for adventure and impressive ability to completely ignore a cattle-grid which I personally find it a complete bugger to walk across, even with my flat hominid feet. Plus, I did literally nothing today (so what else could I tell you about?), and there's a dog lying on my bedside rug right now, occasionally sort of snoring to himself, or waking up to look at me as if to say "are you still clicking away on that thing? Don't you know it's late, and that no-one wants to read about the sleeping arrangements of some poor dog who can't get to sleep anyway since the light is still on?". It's pretty cute, you guys.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bunting is the name for those strings of flags you get at fairs. Like cheerful triangular prayer flags.

I have just now finished sewing the first batch (or perhaps I should say the first 1/5th-length) of the bunting I decided to start sewing in about November last year. At first I was going to make a random number each of flags, in any nice fabric I had a big enough remnant of, and also in about 6 other fabrics which I bought bits of from Spotlight. Then, after sewing a few, I decided to make exactly 5 of each fabric, so that the numbers'd be even, hoping to have the whole thing done by Christmas, then by the start of my elective, then by the end of my elective, then just sort of hopefully at some point before my eventual demise. Somewhere in the middle there I got completely carried away in a large number of fabric shops, ranging from cavernous halogen-lit warehouse-ish Lincrafts in western Sydney to tiny poky little hole-in-the-wall places in Wales and hidden gems with names like "The Quilted Sheep" somewhere near Lake Windermere.

It was quite a lot of fun, actually, hunting about for interesting fabrics as mementos, rather than feeling vaguely like I ought to buy tacky dust-collecting souvenirs like a tiny model Roman holding a sign that says "I bathed in the Bath baths!" or whatever. This way, everything was cheaper and less breakable (and also lighter and more compact) and I got to make my own tacky dust-collector, which was actually quite fun. Plus, it meant that if I had a couple of days to kill in an unfamiliar town, I could get an idea of the lay of the land by trying to hunt down fabric shops in them. This is actually surprisingly effective, like a scavenger hunt; you get a pretty good idea of a town doing this sort of thing.

Anyway, now, there are something like 100 different fabrics, which is to say about 500 flags all told, all hand-sewn and hemmed into neat little triangles, in sets, now, of 4, plus one representative of each unique set sewn onto the preliminary string I've finished this evening. I'm not actually certain exactly how many different fabrics there are, because although I pretty much remember something about each one, and can gleefully tell you which ones used to be old rag-bag dresses or "3 for 10p" remnants, they somehow defy counting, like Galleon's Lap in Winnie the Pooh. I always seem to end up quite certain that I've counted correctly, but varying around 100-odd with a margin of error anywhere from 0 to 12. So I mean, it's somewhere between about 90 and about 110, I guess.

The only problem with all this is that I'm sort of like one of those people who want to show you all their holiday slides or family album photos, agog with how endearing and delightful they are, completely blind to the fact that you often had to be there to really "get" the pictures, and that 5 would be quite sufficent, thank you. I mean, I'm bad enough about actual photos that way, so this urge I have to explain objectively-less-interesting flags to people is likely to end poorly, and fairly inexcusably, since I know, deep down (and quite a lot of the way up to the surface, come to that) that no-one but me could possibly be remotely interested in how thrilling it was to come across the fabric of which my old favourite dress was made in a shop named "My Hung Fabrics". I even know that that shop name isn't actually amusing to those of us who aren't, at some level, a 10 year old still giggling to themselves are going "hehe, you said hung". In fact, since it's run by a lovely chinese family, it may in fact be deeply inappropriate to think of it as a funny name. (Is that even right? Sometimes I worry that I might be accidentally being a racist jerk without meaning to or noticing.)

Still, there you are. Much like the gigantic ball of finger-knitting (it's like french knitting, kind of, only there's only one stitch, which makes it possibly even less useful than french knitting, which Lord knows is already useless enough)(the french seem to have dropped the ball here, actually. 'French' as a prefix usually presages greatness, or at least pretty-good-ness, like in cooking, or kissing or knickers. I guess every nation has their off days. Some have Terra Nullius and hats with corks on them, even though the corks are themselves just as annoying as the flies they're supposed to ward off, and others have the Reign of Terror and French Knitting. I guess all you can do, as usual, is feel sorry for the Germans, who aptly always seem to have this sort of historical schadenfreude competition taped up from the word go) much, as I was saying, like the gigantic (about 25 cm in diameter?) ball of finger knitting I made in year 4, this is one of those acheivements (which I may very probably spend the rest of my life making), of which I am immensely proud, and which absolutely no-one else will ever be impressed by, except perhaps that particular sort of impressed which is expressed through saying things like "yes but what for?" or "I can see it's taken a long time, now what are you going to do with it? Also why did you choose to do it in the least efficient way possible?".

I'm sure that there must be some kind of deep and meaningful Life Lesson to me in there, about 'doing things I like doing for my own satisfaction', not for the dubious attraction of showing other people and impressing them or whatever, and obviously I get that, and am better at seeing it than when I was in year 4 (when I mainly tended to figure that if I explained patiently enough how awesome it was, people would suddenly see, and presumably hail me as the next Disney Princess or something), but frankly I do not feel bad that I have yet to totally master this. I suspect that getting a true and real grip on that sort of thing is the sort of thing which people usually take their whole lives to get the hang of, and sometimes even then they occasionally don't get it. Probably this is what Maslow means by self-actualisation?

Anyway, long story short, I sewed something a bit useless, but am still foolishly proud of it, and that's ok. As long as I don't forget myself and insist on explaining all of them to anyone but my Dad, who had the misfortune to be next to me when I cut the last thread, before I'd taken this whole blog post to nut out that probably he didn't really want to listen but was doing so out of the sort of habit which you can only get by literally decades of being a good and patient parent, and also by perhaps surreptitiously tuning out the voice and imagining what sort of secret passage you'd like in your house or whatever, all the while making interested noises.

I figure that tbis makes me just like Jane Austen writing Emma and saying in the correspondence excerpt which some completely inept marketer had decided to put in the blurb of the copy I read in highchool "I am going to write a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like". Except, you know, with less literary genius and more constant fiddling with bias binding (I was going to say more hours of useless hand-sewing, but that would probably not actually be true, what with the whole 19th century thing and what have you) but with the upsides that highschool girls will never have to try and skim through my bunting and eventually just watch a BBC miniseries after they realise that the Gweneth Paltrow version is bollocks, and also that it gave me something to write today's post about.

I have to say I'm maybe a little ashamed of how much I've written about the damn bunting, given that the evolving main thesis of the post is "stop telling people about your damn bunting", but hey, you don't have to read, so it's what you might call a victimless crime, really.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Deprecation is not the same as depreciation

Today's musings are proudly (but humbly) brought to you be self-deprecation (I wanted to insert a link there to the Stuff White People Like page on Self-Deprecating Humour, but it turns out that it's a chapter in the book but not on the website). I was talking to someone recently who didn't seem to be entirely across the concept, and so I figured it might be rarer than I'd imagined? It always surprises me when this happens, but it's not as rare as I always seem to expect (I'm a slow learner that way).

It turns out, there's a part of the population who just genuinely don't seem to know what to do with self-deprecation, much like many more of us persistently mishandle compliments. Seriously, I am so bad at handling compliments you guys. When someone says "I like your hat" I always go "it's great, isn't it?!" before realising that you're supposed to be self-deprecating about it, even if it legitimately is a great hat, and you didn't make it, so you can hardly be all "nahhh", since then you're actually milliner-deprecating rather than self-deprecating. But if someone is like "you have nice eyes I go "Nonsense, shut up" even though actually I'm super pleased, because the habit of self-deprecation is too strong.

Even more than compliments, though, I don't know what to do with people who don't understand how self-deprecation works, who seem to think that "self-depreciating" (with an extra i) is what it is. Like saying "oh man, I couldn't run 100m to save my life!" actually reduces your value in some way, or like it's a big meaningful difficulty you're worried about. You know the ones, you say to them "Your writing is so neat! My notes always look like they were scratched by a chicken who's recently had a stroke!" and instead of going "pfft, only my good writing is like this!" or "you don't fool me, your writing's not at all bad!" or "heh, it's my superpower! Neatest running-writing in the west!", they offer to give you tips to get better, or explain that yes, their writing is so neat that it once singly handedly saved a child from drowning, and you should see how good their watercolours and use of a pencil is! Their chiaroscuro shading has been known to reduce grown men to tears. In fact, they were the only 4 year old in the state to be awarded a fully legal pen-licence, years ahead of their time! (For the record, I never actually got my pen licence, I've been using biros illegally since the start of year 5, when it was assumed we'd all managed to master basic handwriting in year 4. I hope Mr. Goodlet never finds out).

I know this is in a sense my fault for putting people in a situation where, if they take me entirely at my word, they will look (possibly just to me?) like a socially inept twit, but I do think that in general, this is something with which, critically low caffeine levels notwithstanding, you should be able to cope, unless you actually are a socially inept twit? It's not like it's reasonable for me to totally judge people on this (so I don't, many of my friends and acquaintances have their aspergesque days), but equally, it's not like this sort of thing should be as challenging as it apparently is.

I get particularly annoyed when people drop the ball on this and I know it's my own fault really. Meeting someone for the first time, or talking so someone you've seen around but never really spoken to, and who therefore doesn't know much about you is not, I should know by now, a good time to say things which might be misleading if misinterpreted. But my goodness. It drives me so up the wall when I tell an anecdote about the one time I stuffed up something I consider myself to be generally pretty good at (like the time I accidentally made the world's worst lasagne despite being a pretty fair cook generally, or any one of the numerous times I've totally failed to remember a crucial word despite generally being very chatty, for instance) and the person I'm talking to makes it clear that they now genuinely believe I can't cook a meal to save my life, or string a sentence together in company due to crippling shyness. I want to believe that the reason that this irks me so much is that I know it's really my own fault, so I get annoyed with myself, but I fear that maybe vanity is at work here, and maybe it just bugs me when people try to console me for being bad about something I'm actually smug about. I hope it isn't that, but I guess none of us is perfect, and all of us (me especially, perhaps), are a bit inclined to show off. I'm certainly guiltily aware that I do that more than I ought, which is unfair because I find it so infuriating in others.

This is particularly unfair of me in that sometimes I'm actually trying to mention (but make light of, so that the tone of voice etc is probably identical to the untrained ear) something that I actually am worried about being not very good at. I can see why "ha, I once burned a pudding so thoroughly that we had to have the curtains professionally cleaned after a fortnight of the smoky smell refusing to dissipate" and "gosh, I'm so bad at respiratory histories that I genuinely fear that I'll either fail the Long Case Exam or fluke it and then accidentally kill a patient through incompetence!" might seem like the same sort of thing, to someone who wasn't trained in the finer points of My Personal Conversational Peccadilloes. And that probably means I ought to do something about it (and also revise before my long case exam), but, much like me coming to a completely detailed understanding of the management pulmonary telangiectasia, it's not all that likely to happen.

Also, this makes me very bad at job interviews and presumably internet dating, and any other situation where you need to "sell yourself". I just have no idea how to say "I type pretty well" without feeling like I sound like a dick.

Worst of all (or reassuringly, depending on how you look at it?), I was talking to someone about this sort of thing today, someone who actually does a fair amount of job-interviewing, and he said that he's so used to self-deprecating-ness that when someone says something like "I have exceptional skills..." he's prejudiced against them, and less likely to hire because that does indeed sound like the statement of a complete dick. The problem with this is that I've always been taught that the solution to "I'm not sure how to sell myself" is "Don't think about it, just do it, just say 'I'm amazing' because how else will they know how amazingly right for this job you actually are?" so now I don't know what to think.

I'm totally sure I had another (doubtless excellent) point I was going to make about this, in another paragraph, but it's completely fallen out of my brain, possibly as a self-defence manouvre on the part of my subconscious, which knows I could happily blog for hours, but that I have to get up in less than 6 hours.

Hopefully whatever it was will come to me in the night, and I can tell you tomorrow, although if it does, the odds are good that it will turn out to have been oversold today, and may be an anti-climax (also I might never remember it!) so maybe don't hold your breath for that scintillating missing paragraph too vigourously?

Katoomba Winter Festival

Today has been a long day. It's my littlest sister Alex's birthday, and she had decreed that we were all going up to the Katoomba Winter Festival. About a week ago this decree was modified to "I'm going with my friends and you guys can come too if you like" which is the sort of thing where the person clearly has a preference for whether you go or not, but isn't going to tell you which. It always seems like a minefield, that sort of thing, since then you might be all up in their space when they'd actually rather just go out with their friends, or alternately it might be that if you don't go, it makes it seem like you don't really like them and want to see them etc. I know that sounds mad to you, reading it there, in the comfort of your own space, but I assure you that one of those if invariably the case, when it comes to (my?) sisters (possibly all sisters?). Sometimes, if you're very unlucky, the person who's organising is themselves ambivalent, so you can actually sometimes be wrong in both directions at once, which is something.

Anyway, my folks and I figured that it was best to err on the side of caution, and also thought it might be fun, so we all climbed into the car and wound our way up to Katoomba (which was 2 hours by car from Penrith, and allegedly between 4 and 5 hours by public transport from Coogee), dressed in all the warmest clothes we could layer onto ourselves whilst still retaining the ability to bend our arms and legs. (Also I made cheddar and apple scones for in-car breakfast, which was pretty great, although not an effective way of saving time in the morning. It always feels like somehow eating en route must be faster than breakfasting at home, no matter what, but given that making the scones took a good hour and a half longer than wolfing a bowl of muesli would have, it wasn't what you'd call hyper-efficient).

My sisters usually (and I say usually, because we end up going most years, because Alex is allowed to pick what we do on the weekend closest to her birthday, but since her birthday is just about exactly on the solstice, we seem to end up in Katoomba every year, even though it seems pretty much exactly the same to me every time) dress up in corsetry etc for this event. I did too, the first year, but first of all, all my costumery is still in storage at the moment during the Great Maroubra Renovation, secondly, the predicted maximum temperature in Katoomba today was between 0 & 8 degrees minus windchill, thirdly, I've reached that comfortable point in my life where I'll happily dress up if I feel like it, but I really don't feel any need to do so just to impress a bunch of chilled hippies and miscellaneous strangers etc. (And fourthly, seriously, it's cold up there. This is the same as the second point, but bears repeating. Plus, proper costumery involves high or otherwise interesting footwear, and wearing anything but sneakers or walking boots on a day when you'll be standing and walking about for hours on end is for suckers and people with more patience than me, and usually both at once).

There were lots of strange outfits mingling in among the otherwise fairly normally-Newtownish looking folk. Ladies in dinosaur suits, a dude dressed as Jack Sparrow, a red Power Ranger, and a good few middle aged folk in gowns and wigs looking sort of diffusely pagan god/goddess-y. And a higher than ordinary number of people in capes and cloaks or the long-unwashed-hair-and-long-leather-coat combination which is the infallible mark of a dude who's still bitter about people having been mean to him in highschool, and who genuinely thinks that George Lucas is a great storyteller, and has Opinions about dice.

It's a weird thing, the Winter festival. I'm never quite sure what it's trying to be, and I'm not at all convinced that the festival is, either. It's also very very crowded and jostly in the middle of the day. I don't know why, but it's just about the only event where I get that panicky trapped agoraphobic feeling of being absoltely unable to escape the jostlings of strangers. It's weird, I don't know why it should be so, since I have no problem with most crowded jostly places (although I think that live music venues are often a bit like that, and not as pleasant as they ought to be for how expensive they always seem to be). Maybe it's the fact that the crowd of jostlers on days like today is so much more self-absorbed than jostling crowds usually are? Like I said, there's a lot of that defiant sort of young man who tend to be faintly aggressive in that super defensive way familiar to anyone who's ever had to deal with larger groups of undergraduate geeks, and I think a lot of those folk tend to wear being-a-bit-inconsiderate as a badge of honour and a point of pride, having reacted too hard against that vague feeling of maybe being a bit of a doormat which niggles occasionally at everyone who isn't a complete saint or sociopath?

Anyway, for some reason, the Winter festival crowd always seems more than usually tiring, to me. I suppose this could also be because I often end up trying to navigate it with my family. I love my family dearly, but the only one of the 4 of them who is remotely easy to navigate a crowd with is my Mum. My Dad's progress through a crowd is sort of reminiscent of that scene in Beauty and the Beast where Belle walks through the village absorbed in a book, personally undisturbed, but somehow leaving something of a wake of chaos which makes her impossible to follow. My sisters are not quite so dramatically like this, but I'm confident that by the time they've had as many decades as he's had to perfect their technique, they'll be even more impressively difficult to follow through a crowd than he is.

Anyway, this evening, my uncle and aunt (Dad's brother and sister-in-law) came over for dinner, which was lovely (do I say 'lovely' too much? I feel like possibly I do). They're both really nice. My uncle is funny and fun in a jolly and avuncular way which is a lot like my Dad, and my aunt is quieter (I think maybe she's a bit shy in loud groups like my immediate family?) but also really interesting and nice to talk to. We had one of those evenings where everyone sort of hangs out in the kitchen for the whole preparation-eating-cleaning process and chats and jokes and laughs and holds forth about the state of the country and the global economy, the best route to drive tomorrow, and the difficulty of living in a world where whitegoods which break can never seem to be replaced by new ones which actually fit the space.

Also, for dessert, I made the first strudel I've ever made, and it went pretty well, I'd say, even though I forgot to make sure no-one had decided to freeze the filo pastry, which was nearly a disaster.

Sorry for this journal-style post. I went and saw "Snow White and The Huntsman" yesterday, and I might blog about that tomorrow, since I kept seeing things in it which I wanted to write about (not to say that it's deep and thought-provoking, more to say that there were strange inconsistencies and bits which seemed practically verbatim from other movies) while we watched it.

If there's anything in particular, by the way, you'd really like me to blog about, totally say so in the comments, and maybe I will! I mean I probably will. I'm so close to the bottom of the barrel here that I'm rounding off a post which is essentially "here is exactly what I did today with the enthralling enticement of maybe talking about a movie with Kristen Stewart in it. Obviously I could use help.