Friday, 18 September 2009

A Man's Head on a Woman's Shoulders

Recently I had a rant a bit about racial discrimination, so now I'll switch to the old one, gender discrimination.

I was reading an article in a print newspaper which I unfortunately can't put a link to because they don't seem to have published it online. That's why they make you get the print copy, for gems of 300 words like that.

Anyhow, the writer was telling of how insurance premiums were higher on his car than they were for his wife, even though they both have a clean driving record and are both the same age, and the reason was because he's male. He asked the insurance company and they said this was because men made more claims than women. He asked if they discriminated based on race too, and they said no, because they didn't collect any data on that.

He said this was annoying as gender was one of the things you can't change. Age relates to experience. But you could get older, in fact you usually did. Or you could move to a different geographic region. But you didn't change gender.

Obviously he hasn't investigated certain operations you can do, but never mind.

Anyway, the poor bloke seemed put upon, and this was one of the terrible things about being a bloke. That and I just don't know how men live with a bobbing Adam's Apple. Doesn't it ever feel weird having a round thing bobbing at your neck? It looks weird on some of you. If I had one I would be thinking it was very strange. Especially since I'm a girl.

But I don't think it is all one way. For instance, in some cases, women pay more for just being a woman. For instance, I passed the hairdresser's and a Lady's Basic Cut, the cheapest was, more expensive than the most expensive Men's Basic Cut (they have a slight range based, I think, on length of hair).

Now that is outrageous. I have seen men with tangly long mullets and women with little bob cuts and still the women are probably paying more. Grrr!

In fact it annoys me more than the car premium thing, because I've got hair. I don't have a car. Your hair grows on you, man. You need to CUT IT to get rid of it, ok some people's just falls out. Whereas if you don't want to pay for insurance on a car you can choose to not buy one in the first place. Easy peasy. So in that way I think it is even WORSE.

I have thought sometimes that I should go into a hairdresser dressed in a suit and tie with a m moustache drawn on my face and talk in a deep voice and despite having past-the-shoulder length hair and wanting a side part with it nicely layered etc, I would demand bravely to have a men's cut! See if they would dare question my ... errrh ... balls!

They've changed it now - And now it is happily gender-unbiased - but they used to have two different specials at the Belgian Beer Cafe - one was half-price mussels for males on Wednesdays, and for ladies it was a free beer if you wore red. (They've changed it now so the mussels deal applies to everyone and the beer special has disappeared.)

But at the time it annoyed me because I don't drink beer and I like mussels! And dammit ... What do I have in my wardrobe that's red? Too much planning!

On the other time of course one uses the feminine advantage to every extent they can when the guys who are selling fruit at Paddy's Markets make their comments about throwing in an extra few apples into your basket "for the lady".

I'm not sure if we should jump up and scream about all this disgusting, awful, gender discrimination, or accept it will balance out in the end, and/or accept which gender we are and what tricks and advantages it gives us and use them to gain the best advantages where! It sounds pathetic and very cliche but I do think some people might help me more because I'm a pint-sized female, if something falls, if a stupid ticket machine won't work and I start growling at it I think there is someone who is male/taller/wider/more authoritarian looking who delights in coming up and trying to help out, more so than if I were a big tall, large male with tattoos all over me.

Of course there are some areas in which gender discrimination/abuse/unfairness is quite serious; on the other hand when it comes to a little freebie given or not given here or there, a small slant in prices, a slightly different treatment, should it be something we worry about overly?

Or is not worrying about them being lazy, and silently condoning or making way for the bigger abuses, or contributing to them? Is that person whom you let get away with dividing man's chores and girl's chores and you don't mind her emphasising it because you'd really rather not clean the car or put the mulch on the garden or re-tile the roof ... is she the next one who'll be giving disgustingly different pay to males from females or refusing to employ certain people based on gender and part of that is your fault?

And you could be one of those victims!


Wednesday, 16 September 2009

My First Holiday in a Long Time

It may sound strange to some people, but I haven't had a holiday in a long time. I mean a holiday out of Sydney, not a holiday from work. As a member of the unemployed ranks at the moment, you might say I'm constantly on holiday, although I'm studying. Kinda. And even then I had a mid-semester break just last week.

I also had my first holiday out of Sydney for what seems like a long time. I was just sitting around when my sister invited me to go to Canberra for two days because she was driving out there to meet someone for a chat, and would I come along? We could go in the morning, she'd go meet the lady while I spent time wandering about, we'd share a hotel room for a night, spend the next day looking around, then leave that evening. She'd do the driving. I can't drive. No way.

It seemed a good idea to me, and it was fun, but different from what I expected.

First, Sunday morning we headed out and we decided to use the Tomtom to navigate. We were out on the highway and we were gone about an hour and a half when we decided to take a rest break. We stopped, ate a piece of fruit and my sister had a little snooze, and then when we started up again ... yes, the darn TomTom wouldn't work again!

It's amazing how you rely on that silly lady's voice telling you to "turn right here". We panicked!

Eventually we decided we should keep going, after all we still could remember which direction to go on the highway and apart from that there wasn't too much else that could go wrong. But we kept squealing about "Oh darn, does this mean we'll have to find a MAP? Not one of those things!" like we were contemplating taking on a bucket of dead rats.

Finally - oh joy, I fiddled around with the TomTom enough that an hour later it jumped back to life and we both sighed with relief and swore that we would never do anything to cause it harm or want to leave us, ever, ever again. Precious baby.

I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do when we got to Canberra. Mel had to go meet her church-friend, and I was dropped off in Canberra, not daring to do anything too ... well, daring. I didn't dare catch a bus. I'm bad enough at navigation as it is, I was finding myself lost as I walked around, and I had this horrible vision of myself catching a bus and being stranded out in the outer suburbs and not knowing how the hell I'd got out there and how the hell to get back and my sister calling me and wanting to know why I wasn't back at the designated meeting place when we agreed.

So I crept carefully. I followed a sign saying National Film and Sound Archive.

Now, I don't know where they hide that place but I couldn't find it despite the signs or the strange directions people gave me. "Past the white building there's a place with a big dome on it" ... heck, I couldn't see a dome, or if that's your idea of a dome, you and I need to have talks. Big talks.

I ended up wandering around the ANU and admiring the grounds for a short while.

Then I checked out a few shops and bookstores. I can't help myself checking out bookstores.

After a good browse through the books, I managed to get myself to the Canberra Museum and Gallery where I saw a few really cool collections. The funniest was a great collection of record covers. It's hard to say what's so cool about quirky record covers, except you've just got to see it. Sometimes the names just speak for themselves - like "I fell in love with a prostitute" Sermon by Rev. Jasper Williams. Others, well the artwork was so "interesting" I just had to laugh.

But best of all, for me, was the children's activity table. There was a table with a bird chart and some coloured pencils and a bird picture book nearby, and a sign that said "Read the picture book and write your own bird story" with some little blank booklets provided.

Naturally I did as instructed. I don't think I draw as well as Julie Vivas (illustrator of the supplied picture book) but I rather liked my story. If I can improve my pictures I may be onto a hit picture book. And all that in just a few minutes of inspiration!

Later, I saw another smaller Art Gallery and some more bookshops before I was picked up and went off to church and dinner with my sister.

The next day went like this ....

I lay in bed thinking, gee, it's all dark, I think I must have awoken early, I won't get out of bed yet, specially as my sister isn't awake yet. I don't know how long I was thinking this.

Then I heard a maid knock on the door and say "HOUSEKEEPING!"

My sister drowsily called from her bed "Umm, later!"

I asked what the time was. My sister said quarter past seven. I replied, "Gee, that's early for housekeeping."

"Sorry, I mean it's almost ten," said my sister.


With checkout having to be eleven, this rather changed things.

We managed to get out and go to the National Gallery and it was fantastic, except that I think I may have walked in on a few tours. It's one of those disconcerting things about tours in galleries, you have all these groups being shown around by tour guides and if you're there by yourself and you want to just inspect a piece of art by yourself, you feel like you're getting in the way when you have a group of fifteen standing around in a semicircle with a guide marching in front of the painting pointing out features and explaining history and symbolism and stuff and you just want to have a good peer.

Still, peer I did!

I don't know, I don't mind some of the "modern" art there but I usually really prefer wandering in the sections where there are portraits of ladies or landscapes rather than huge canvases of solid colour with a few simple geometric shapes on them. I guess it's all a matter of taste.

After that we planned to go to Cockington Green, the miniature Village ... but my sister wanted to have a nap for twenty minutes before she drove ... and that twenty minutes became two hours ...!

So instead we drove straight back home ...

and right in time for dinner!

It mightn't seem like we did a whole lot but in fact it was just nice to get away for a couple of days, look at some beautiful art, have a wander, and not feel pressured to dash from place to place under time constraints. I enjoyed it!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

How to Mark a Birthday

Today marks a very special day and not just because I turned one year older today. In fact it's a funny way of putting it, because I feel like I just did turn one year older today, you know, for a year I wasn't turning any days older and today - 365 days hit me like that! It was a growing experience.

Quality people are born on and around this day, I would just like to mention I share this birthday with the illustrious poet and blogger TimT and also that I also almost share it with Roald Dahl and my cousin's little daughter, who was born just two days ago. That is, my cousin's little daughter was, Roald Dahl was born a little earlier than that years-wise but on the same day as the little one, in case anyone was a little confused about that.

I'm in good company!

Anyhow, today started out well. For one thing, I slept in. That's a nice way to start a day. Good bout of sleep!

Nextly, I went to visit Mr Coffee, who had got most of the day off work.

I had recently made a bet with Mr Coffee that I could learn basic vi (an editor for programming) methods in the last week or so. I have not won a bet with Mr Coffee yet. The last one he won and I had to buy him a slice of cake at the Citrus cafe in Newtown! And he has been shying away from bets ever since so I couldn't win it back.

But today I proved my basic vi skills and won my cake! That is a VERY good way to have a birthday! CAKE and to get the betting score back in balance ... what more could a girl want?

I had chocolate meringue. It's a good start to the year.

I have read some very nice SMSes and blog comments and emails saying happy birthday ... thank you very much for remembering and saying hello ... and keep reading!

Unfortunately there are some little downers to birthdays. For instance I had to go to my computer classes and it's my annoying lecturer teaching Tuesday class, and he was not being any more competent this class than any other. He told us all that in our last class test the grades were so low in general that they would have to be all scaled up. I don't think he has considered that it could be because he is an incomprehensible teacher and writes rather confusing tests. After all I doubt it is all because we are incompetent dolts - it is a class where you have to be a graduate to make it into the class, and apparently a good proportion of the class has a computing background (though not me).

Still, stuffed full of meringue and with a nice doze-in I feel a very satisfied birthday girl!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

HSC Debate

Right here, the vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney criticised the HSC ranking system (UAI) as being a too-narrow system that favoured elite (think "private" and "selective" school) students and didn't always get the best students into Universities.

Now not all agree with him. Certainly not the head of James Ruse Agricultural, but then they always do the best in the HSC in NSW so what do you expect?

I'm just wondering though, if the head of the Uni of Sydney isn't in favour of the UAI as a way of selecting people who can get into his Uni, then why not make a different entrance criteria for the University of Sydney? Something more in line with what he considers allows the brightest students to have a chance in his Uni? Auditions, applications, resumes, interviews, whatever? And let other Universities use the UAI if that's what they want?

Then if the Uni of Sydney starts producing all these absolute wonders in comparison with the mediocrity of everywhere else everyone will start following in their footsteps and maybe the UAI will become redundant or unimportant ...

Sounds like a great idea to me!

Monday, 7 September 2009

My Aspiration to Work at Google

Recently someone started in on me about how cool it was to work at Google and what a great work culture they have there.

I have no doubt that this could be true, but I'm not sure what use they'd have for a once-paralegal whose ambition is to write a really cool book about witches.

I did think about working for Google, and what possible skills I would have to offer such an organisation, and there is about only one thing I could think of.

I think would like, and would be good at, coming up with different ways to write "Google". You know, the way the Google logo changes. Sometimes the two "o"s look like eyes or something. But I reckon I could come up with some really creative ones. One could be a blue eye and one could be a green eye!

That's called INNOVATIVE.

I'm sure someone is in charge of that, it doesn't just change by itself. In fact there is a bit of a fuss over the second "o" now so it's not like this logo changing means nothing.

I, in fact, envisage a whole team of about 6 people whose job it is to come up with different ways to write "Google". One in charge of each letter.

One who walks around saying "I'm the "first "o" man" and another saying "I'm the "l" lady!". That would be their title. Their day would be filled with nothing but "o"s or "G"s or whatever letter they would be assigned.

Wow. It's just a great idea. I think I could do that. I don't know, I think an "o" would suit me fine, but really, I'm just happy to be part of the team. I'll take any letter. Really.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Please give generously

The other day I was at home rather late, still in my tracksuit that serves as good nightwear. Not exactly in a see-other-people mood, I'm trying to work on one of my computing assignments and get it in by Father's Day, the deadline. My terminal is labelled "Cygwin Bash Shell" on the shortcut on my laptop, and I sure as hell feel like bashing its shell sometimes when I see those errors pop up.

Anyhow, I hear a knock at the door and I decided to answer it despite my non-people-ish mood. After all, if it's a competition that I wasn't aware I'd entered and I'd just won a year's supply of Nudie Juice or something, it might brighten up my day. And if it were a member of my fa,ily who'd forgotten their keys and I refused to answer, I'd never hear the end of it. Not worth not answering!

So I went to the door, answered, and it was a lady from World Vision who started off on her obviously rehearsed spiel,

"Hi, I'm from World Vision, I don't wish to put a dampener on your day, but a child dies in this world every 3 seconds ..."

She got about as far as "I don't wish to put a dampener on your day" when the first thing I thought was "Is she apologising for coming to the door, because yes, that did put a dampener on my day. I'm in my trakkies turn pjs! And if she didn't want to put a dampener on my day, why did she knock?"

While there may be some people who absolutely jump with joy at the sight of a charity collector aproaching them, I'm not one of them, and I don't know anyone who's confessed it's one of their little happinesses. On the other hand I realise that charity collectors really believe in their causes and want to collect money for them, and they choose something which they know - or a pretty sure - will get a strong emotional reaction. For instance, dying children.

We all feel strongly about dying children. Or people with terminal cancer. Or ... well there are plenty of other things that get us sad, emotional, or angry at the state of the world.

I'm envisioning a new kind of sales approach,

"Hi, I'm Dorothy, I don't wish to put a dampener on your day, but a charity collector harasses someone for money at least every three seconds on average around the world, and I'm sure you'll agree that's totally unacceptable. We've had a wonderful response in relation to that from your neighbours, and if you'll just sign here it's totally tax deductible ..."