This is the archive of the original tigtogblog

tigtog now posts at the new and improved Hoyden About Town. She also blogs at Larvatus Prodeo and Finally A Feminism 101 Blog. If the new Hoydenspace is down you should find updates below.

Posts begin below the Feed Modules from the blogs named above.

Hoyden About Town

Latest Posts from Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog


Kovco questions

Just a quick acknowlegement that my previous post on Anzac Day which referred to Pvt. Kovco's death from a firearm discharge in a secure area strongly implied that Pvt. Kovco committed suicide, and with fuller information I now realise that this was an unwarranted jumping to a conclusion. If anyone who knew Pvt. Kovco read my post and was distressed by it you have my unreserved apologies.

My opinion was based on Minister Brendan Nelson's statements about a gun-cleaning accident, which large portions of the gun-familiar electorate greeted with the scorn it deserved. Nelson has since stated that the situation in which the weapon discharged was more complicated than alleged in his original statement, now saying that Pvt. Kovco was not handling the weapon when it discharged.

The Kovco family is quite rightly demanding a full explanation, not only of the actual circumstances, but also the Minister's changing story and the unforgivable mixup with sending the wrong body home to Australia (obviously this also meant that another grieving family in Bosnia had to wait an unconscionable length of time for the body of their loved one also).

My opinion regarding the Australian military's abandonment of returned soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders has not changed, but Pvt. Kovco may well be an example of different flaws in the care of our soldiers than that one.


Belated Friday Random 10 - First Ever iPod edition

So Mr Tog is the best spouse ever, and got me a video iPod for my anniversary gift. So far only have 129 songs on it, but ripping some Nick Cave as I write. Now I can join all the other bloggers copying Lauren of Feministe's pop culture meme, although I fear I fall far short of the IMS standard regarding my playlist.

1. Like Someone in Love - Bjork
2. You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman - Aretha Franklin
3. All Things Dull and Ugly - Monty Python
4. Hot Patootie Bless My Soul - Rocky Horror Picture Show
5. MLF Lullaby - Tom Lehrer
6. I've Got An Angel - Eurythmics
7. Save Me - Aretha Franklin
8. Baby I Love You - Aretha Franklin
9. A New England - Billy Bragg
10. Solar Plexus Kick - Switchblade Kittens

The new iPod seems a bit heavy on the Aretha love, although obviously it is simply not possible to have too much Aretha, so I forgive it. It's probably an artifact of having uploaded Aretha's 30 Greatest Hits, so I simply have more Aretha than anyone else at the moment.

I was discussing music with my 18 year-old niece yesterday, and that my "problem with music today" is I really like vocalists, being one myself, so that I tend to like music made by people who can sing, or at least who have good singers in the lineup. I'll forgive sufficiently satirical singer/performers some vocal shortcomings if they're clever enough, and I have a lingering affection for the hardly renowned for vocal subtleties punk genre, but I find few new performers fit my tastes in the contemporary charts.

I loathe the poptarts who overornament with insane trills in order to hide that they're unable to hit a note cleanly, but I admire vocalists who play around with vocals-as-instrument, like Laurie Anderson or Bjork. And since seeing her most recent video-clips I'm gonna have to get me some P!nk, because the other thing I largely can't stand in the contemporary scene is that the lyrics are inane vanillaheteroconsumeristpap or else misogynist crud, both of which drive me insane.

Now where did I put that Peggy Lee CD?


Happy Anniversary to Us!

15 years married today. We're taking the tigtogsprogs to Nana and Papa's to stay for the night, and then we're going out on the town for dinner and a show (Dylan Moran, Irish comedian who wrote/starred in Black Books).

So, you're on your own for the day, people!


Lest We Forget

Because it's Anzac Day, I've spent much of my time looking over the various diaries/letters of my greatuncles who took part in the Great War. (Various cousins-once-removed and second-cousins have transcribed them over the years and sent out copies to us all).

Two of four AIF brothers were at the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. This excerpt is from a letter sent home by Bert while convalescing in a British military hospital after being wounded at Gallipoli: his letter was later published in the local paper as THE DARDANELLES - A SOLDIER'S LETTER. It's very evocative, and the little he writes of the blood and death and horror is so obviously tightly held in and understated that it's all the more powerful:
Half a mile from shore the troops were under shrapnel fire and many a poor chap never got off the destroyers and many more were killed in the boats by rifle, machine gun and shrapnel fire. One boat was struck on the waterline by a concussion shrapnel and of course sank and some of the men were drowned. One chap swam ashore with the whole of his kit and rifle, though how the dickens he did it I don't know. A couple of pontoons loaded with troops broke loose from the tow and the Turks got the machine guns on to them and killed every man in them.

Once our boys got ashore they soon rooted out all the Turks; they charged them with the bayonet. I heard that one officer, only a mere boy bagged five with a revolver. They got the Turks on the run and after a while the Turks, seeing how eager they were to charge, led them on two or three times and then raked them with machine guns and shrapnel. Consequently the Third Brigade, though they did not, comparatively speaking, lose very many in the actual landing were pretty severely cut up before reinforcements were able to reach them. We landed in a bad place and it's just as well. The Turks were expecting us at another place and had we gone there we would never have made it ashore. They had guns and machine guns, splendid trenches, obstacles and even barbed wire entanglements and mines in the water to welcome us with. Where we actually did land was not very well guarded and we sort of surprised them and we got ashore and established ourselves before they could bring sufficient troops to prevent us. Once we got ashore it was just a matter of holding on. The 3rd Brigade's turn came about 8 a.m. and A Co, went first. I was OK until I saw the bodies of four poor beggars on the destroyer covered with a tarpaulin. The blood was running out from under it and it quite upset me. Didn't get my nerve back until we got into the rowing boat and then I was OK.

The shrapnel was bursting all around us at intervals but our boat escaped and landed without any casualties. When the boats got fairly close in we hopped out. I picked out a nice shallow part up to my knees but didn't get three feet before it was almost to my waist. One of our boys stood on a stone and it rolled and he went right under. We had no opposition in landing, except for the shrapnel as the 3rd Brigade had cleared out all the beggars out from the beach. After a short rest in a ravine we pushed on. Talk about a hill! We had to simply pull ourselves up by the undergrowth in places. None of them were very high but they were all very steep and we had to stop for a spell every little while. It was during one of these short spells that we had our first casualty. A bullet got Sergeant Cavill in the neck and killed him.

The bullets from the fighting in front were flying around pretty thick. You could hear in every direction the sharp crack as they passed. Finally we got on the top of the hill with a pretty good trench in it. The fact that it was a Turkish trench didn't worry our consciences in the least. We just took possession of it and inwardly thanked the Turks for saving us the trouble of digging one. Unfortunately it had no field of fire, so we got up on to the crest of the hill and tried to pick out some of the Turks who were now potting at us both with rifles and machine guns. But we could not see a sign of them as the whole country is covered with scrub about 3ft high - ideal country for snipers and machine guns - and of course they were effectively concealed. We dug ourselves in, so that we were safe from rifle fire. It's lovely work lying so close to the ground as a snake and trying to dig yourself a trench at the same time.

Bert, as I wrote in the previous post, was later killed in the trench warfare in France. Before he went to France he had been safely stationed as an expert semaphore instructor with a Training Battalion in England. He requested a transfer to the front lines in France because his three younger brothers were fighting there. He was only on the front for a few weeks before his death in the 2nd Battle of Bullecourt on 3rd May, 1917. A few days later, his younger brother, who did not yet know that Bert had been killed, signed off on a letter home as follows:

"How are all at home and how are the siblings generally. I am in the best to health and am no more miserable than I have ever been at home. In fact I'm getting so callous now that very little is able to affect me. Didn't think I could become so cold blooded. Still its necessary here or one would go mad. Goodnight and good luck to you all."
Anzac Day makes one remember the horror of war, not only the maimings and deaths but the transformation of ordinary people into killing automatons suppressing their normal reaction to the pain and suffering of others. Imagine the concern any parent would feel receiving such a letter from their son on the other side of the world. No wonder people who experience these things are never the same again. Lest we Forget.

For the fallen

The news of Australia's first military fatality in Iraq, which came just before Anzac Day, is a timely reminder of the fact that people at home in suits make decisions that cost soldiers overseas in uniform their lives. And those deaths don't always occur in combat.

We don't know the circumstances yet that led to a highly trained soldier, who had been around guns most of his life, to have a fatal accident while cleaning his pistol. We do know that for generations the military have downplayed the incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD - once called more evocatively shellshock) amongst serving soldiers, repeatedly sending soldiers suffering from severe mental stress back to fighting units, and refusing to provide appropriate benefits to returned soldiers suffering for years afterwards.

I am a strong supporter of anyone who chooses to serve, and it infuriates me when our government sends them to fight yet again in someone else's war for insufficient reason, and then doesn't support soldiers up to the hilt, as is the case with the soldiers seeking compensation and invalid pensions for the PTSD from their war service.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The four older brothers of my grandfather - Vern, Viv (yes, I am named after him), Perce and Bert - went to war for King and Empire in 1914. Three saw action on Gallipoli, and all four served in France, where three of them later won the Military Cross. This particular branch of the family was considered fortunate - only one brother didn't come home, Bert: killed by a shell hitting a trench in Bullecourt, France in 1917.

Another branch of the family in-laws lost two sons from three who went to war. One of my relatives has done a fairly exhaustive record of her ancestors and in-laws who served in WWI - 8 dead from 27 - nearly one in three lie in a foreign field.

The four brothers are in the badly reproduced newspaper photo above with Uncle Viv's father-in-law, who also survived, in the middle. That's Dad's lost uncle on the left right, with the stylish moustache, always and forever dashing Uncle Bert.

They shall not grow old,
As we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning,
We will remember them.
We will remember them.

The ANZAC Dedication: For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

Mountains in autumn

Ten years ago my parents retired back to the home in which I spent my early childhood. It's in the Lower Blue Mountains near one of the National Park entrances, and they have a magical backyard for children. We went up for a barbecue lunch on a perfect sunny autumn day, which seems as good an excuse as any to put up some links to my spanking new Flickr account.

parents' backyard; Cardinal rose in front garden; neighbour's cabbage-tree palm

There's more photos in the "garden" set at the Flickr page, but again no shots of me and mine with clear faces, as I'm leading by example for the kids so far as safe-surfing goes. All their email goes to my inbox, for example. This monitoring will taper off as they grow older and become more cunning in their ways.

And my posting gap is explained by (1) my recalcitrant router, which has been threatened with sticky liquids and has decided to behave (2) Blogger playing silly buggers with loading posts - if you can see this it has decided to behave for the moment as well.


This may seem like I'm some kind of prevert

(although I'm actually a fully fledged vert fast approaching ultravert status) but anyway there's an excellent thread about cunnilingus currently up at Pandagon - why some women really don't like it, why lots of others like it OK or like it lots and lots, what's the best way to talk to a partner about it. 144 comments and counting. Well worth reading for a lot of open sex-positive discussion.


150 years of 8 hour days

Kim has a post up at Larvatus Prodeo reminding us all about the 8-hour working day pioneers in our own Australian state of Victoria. 150 years. It's probably just as well none of them are still alive to see what's happening to the labour market of today.

Annals of Ex-Spousal Jousting

Civil but not effusive congratulations on birth of child to new partner of ex-spouse:

"I hope both mother and baby are doing well."

Naughty Nic's very clearly not mentioning someone here:

Perhaps because this is her fervent unvoiced wish:

[For the benefit of certain netizens I know with a very specific Kidman fetish, I have only included photos of her with curly hair. Enjoy.]


vaccines and autism redux

Orac on Respectful Insolence adds a cracker to his series taking on the Mercury-in-Vaccines-is-causing-Autism crowd.

Some years ago I was for a while concerned about the possibility that the mercury compound thimerosal that is used as a preservative in vaccines might have had something to do with my kids ending up with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (the togster has High Functioning Autism that was initially diagnosed as Asperger's Syndrome, the tigling has PDDNOS - Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified: people pick up that the togster has social skills difficulties easily while he fidgets and daydreams in the middle of a conversation, while the tigling's challenges are not so immediately obvious).

But the more I read the more I realised that the claimed connections just didn't have the evidence to back them up, and all the later studies that were done showed to anyone with a decent basic grounding in statistics that the claims of a connection were disproved. Orac does a thorough job in his many archived posts debunking the Mercury-in-Vaccines=Autism claim; that this post does a nice takedown of the self-anointed all-round 'expert' and bundle of trust-funded smug that is "Christian Libertarian" pundit Vox Day is a bonus.

A good lay-person site by a sibling on Autism and Asperger's: Weird Not Stupid

Keep Katie Quiet

... or Xenu will come and take her away!

I know, a bit late considering yesterday's news, but still good ol' stoopidfun.

Via commentor Saint at LP.


Daddy Dearest

Look at the man with his young daughter at the Father-Daughter ball. And all the other dads dancing there with their daughters. They look kinda sweet, don't they?

I would have thought that these two girls were a bit young for a ball, although they do look very excited.

This dad made a special effort to get dressed up for his little girl's special night.

This dad didn't make any effort to get dressed up at all. I think his daughter might be a little embarassed.

But nobody looked embarassed when the girls were handed out cards to read while standing opposite their dads. What a special moment.

Are you wondering what those girls read out to their proud beaming dads?

I pledge to remain sexually pure...until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband. ... I know that God requires this of me.. that he loves me. and that he will reward me for my faithfulness.

And there's something on those cards for the dads to read back to the daughters as well.

I, (daughter's name)'s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.

Just wow. Hey kid, you're seven or maybe eleven years old and your dad is so obsessed with your hymen he's getting you to make public vows about it. But at least you get to dress up and go dancing first. Lucky you.

This was the annual Father-Daughter Purity Ball in South Dakota, where they recently outlawed abortion even to save the mother's life. As Amanda at Pandagon pointed out, an event like this makes us wonder less that the law had no exemption for pregnancies resulting from incest. PZ at Pharyngula and Digby at Hullabaloo have more.

Pseudoscience of the day

I loathe cynical advertising playing on the generally poor science education of the wider populace. We are not taught enough about how our own bodies work to spot the snakeoil salesmen.

Case in point: a company advertising a daily multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, a field with wide competition in which it is rather difficult to make one's product have a memorable "point of difference" to hang one's marketing hook on. So what do they come up with?

The old advertising standby: manufacture a problem of which you've never heard before and never noticed anybody suffering, and tell you that their product is the solution to this novel problem.

In this case, the voice-over informs us (with a tone of civil indignation that must have taken the voice performer quite some time to perfect), that other "daily multis" release their nutrients into your body "all at once" so that later in the day the nutrients might no longer be available "when you need them". However, [Clever Product] multis are slow release over 8 hours, so their nutrients will last for the entire working day! Wow!

I have to give it to the pharma company for cleverness: there are enough medications that are genuinely more effective in a slow-release format, particularly for arthritis and hypertension and other diseases of middle-age-and-beyond, that the general public has well and truly absorbed the concept that Slow Release Meds Are A Good Thing. Sure they are, when the therapeutic effect is short-acting and there is a need to extend that therapeutic effect in order to alleviate distinct symptoms.

But that is not how vitamins and minerals work.

Very simply: vitamins contained in our food and dietary supplement intake are stored in the body's own organs and gradually released: the body has its own slow-release system. As for the minerals, they mostly dissolve in the blood and help maintain the electrolyte balance which keeps our blood and organs within the proper pH balance for normal functioning. Some minerals are laid down in the bone and connective tissues, especially calcium, and if needed by the blood for pH balance or other tissue growth may be reabsorbed (this particularly happens in pregnancy and is a big reason why women are at greater risk for osteoporosis in later life).

Normal daily activity simply does not stress the supply of either vitamins or minerals sufficiently to be concerned about "running out of nutrients" halfway through the day. The vitamin absorption system is based on longer term cycles than that, and a balanced diet will easily supply sufficient minerals to get through the day. This is part of our body's natural homeostasis mechanisms: the collection of organic chemical repositories and chemical distribution networks that form our physiology and allow us to ingest external matter, break it down to its constituent chemicals, use it to live and grow, and excrete what we can't use.

Now, minerals such as sodium and potassium do get passed constantly out of the body through sweat and urine, particularly rapidly if the body is placed under severe stress by a gastric illness or prolonged aerobic physical activity, and these stressful physical events can affect the electrolyte balance quite rapidly.

And here's where the ad campaign above might actually be dangerous. When the body's electrolyte balance is truly upset, that can be a medical emergency (the athletes whose muscles "melted" during marathons - electrolyte imbalance, people with uncontrolled dysentery die of electrolyte imbalance) and what is needed then are mineral salts that get absorbed right away, not slowly released. Athletes drink electrolyte solutions to avoid collapse, in wealthy countries people with dysentery are hooked up to IV electrolyte drips and survive (in poor countries they die). More insidious mineral deficiencies which benefit more from an immediate supply than slow release of the needed mineral are anaemia and hypothyroidism.

Vitamin deficiencies are slower in onset than electrolyte imbalances, and the need for treatment not quite so life-and-death urgent in most instances. It is worth noting that vitamin deficiencies take months to manifest in visible symptoms, quite the opposite of the situation indicated by our cynical multivitamin advertisers. And when treating these deficiencies, the vitamin injections that are needed to correct severe cases of scurvy, beriberi, rickets, osteomalacia, pellagra, xerophthalmia and keratomalacia (note that we in the parts of the world with money to spare for daily multivitamin/mineral tablets have probably never known anyone suffering from any of these deficiency diseases) are needed in forms that are absorbable right now, not slowly released. Once the starving tissues are supplied, the liver and fatty tissues will absorb any excess and release it as the body requires.

Our body's own homeostasis regulates how vitamins and minerals are delivered to the tissues that need them far, far better than any multiple-enterically-coated capsule ever could. If your dietary intake is truly insufficient for the vitamins and minerals you need to remain healthy, at least don't let the manufacturers con you into paying more for some slow-release formulation that is absolutely not required.


Look over there

Light blogging for me with kids home for school holidays, which makes me even more of a taxi service than usual.

So hie thee over to Pandagon for an interesting post and an especially fascinating comment thread on radical vs liberal feminism and lust vs power in rape. Lots of really thoughtful stuff.

P.S. Via a passing comment on Larvatus Prodeo, check out this thread at Unqualified Opinion Offerings - 800+ comments and going strong!


Feminism, blogging and privilege

This Guardian article is a few weeks old, but I've only just caught up with it.
Feminist blogs are booming. But are they globalising emancipation - or just playthings for the rich and well educated?
Gendergeek acknowledges that feminist bloggers are privileged:
It can't be denied [...]that the power structures evident in the 'real world' are also obvious online.
But as one of her commenters points out:
I never seem to read any angst by male bloggers that they only represent the privileged.


I spy a fly

abutilon variegatus
"Flowering Maple"


bloodyrugbyyummyseafood blogging

Mr Tog is watching some Kiwis thrash some Sandgropers. I don't watch most matches, I only watch matches that Lote plays in, because his legs and his grin are gorgeous.

Rugby in my experience is greatly enhanced by superb tiger prawns accompanied by a Barossa Valley Chardonnay Pinot Gris. Having a house full of chocolate in various forms is an accompanying anticipatory pleasure of the highest order.

I was going to post some pictures of gustatory titillation, but Blogger doesn't want me to. You don't get Lote's legs, either. Suffer.

Who knew?

Apparently, when some people in the USA wave this foreign flag it's a bad bad thing:

But nobody gets upset when some people in the USA wave this foreign flag every single year:

Apparently, ancestors from some countries are better than others.


*swoon* Clive Owen in tights, oh my

Elizabeth: The Golden Age "begins filming in April 2006 in the UK" apparently. I hope it lives up to the first film, which is an all-time fave of mine despite the glaring historical inaccuracies (does anyone know of a site that's actually counted up the anachronisms?).

Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush return as ER and Walsingham, and Owens gets to swish his cloak as Sir Walter Raleigh.


UPDATE: gotta love a quickie Photoshop ===>
(although I doubt that this film's Raleigh will actually be doing a great deal of Captain Blood type derring do)

single occupancy cell...natural light....access to group areas

That could mean Hicks is in cells like this with other inmates nearby that he can talk to:

And that he gets his 30 minutes daily exercise like this with other inmates nearby that he can talk to:

Those are the images that the US govt and AG Ruddock want to come to our minds with those words.

But Hicks' US military lawyer Maj Mori says the authorities are playing a game of semantics.

Access to group exercise facilities:

Single occupancy cells with natural light:

How about some non-obfuscatory language, Mr Ruddock?

Does David Hicks have group contact with other inmates or not?

If he doesn't, then how is that not solitary confinement aka isolation?

If he's being held in solitary confinement, how does that not constitute the US breaking the agreement they made with Australia two years ago that Hicks would not be held in isolation?

Why should Australians trust a government that won't stand up for its citizens' rights to due judicial process?

Related: Hicks, Dreyfus, Kafka


Would you buy a used headline from this woman?

You just know there's dwarves buried under her patio, don't you?

What was the wardrobe department at Ten thinking? Watch out for warty old ladies with apples, Sandra.

And in my defence, I was only watching Ten because Ross Noble was on Rove, so we braved the barrage of ads. When we saw the promos for the late night news, I just had to wait and see whether those red sleeves actually were puffy. Yes, they are - it might be an understated noughties puff, but I know a puffy sleeve when I see a puffy sleeve.

I once loved dresses like this one, but I had an excuse: it was the '80s.

Hicks, Dreyfus, Kafka?

I was listening to an interesting radio program (RN's Law Report) which had some discussion of comparisons between the Guantanomo detainees appearances before the military tribunal and the celebrated Dreyfus Affair. This is a controversial comparison because we now know that Dreyfus was innocent and railroaded by prejudice both against his ethnicity/religion and distaste for the nature of the charges against him (spying and treason), so some feel offended that an innocent Jew should be compared to a committed jihadi. Others point out that the distaste for Hicks and indifference to his fate because of the nature of the accusations are exactly why his case is so similiar to that of Dreyfus.

Later this year David Hicks will finally go before a US military tribunal to defend himself against...well, at least he's finally been charged with something after nearly four years in Guantanamao with no charges beyond being an alleged "unlawful combatant". But what evidence exists against him? We, and more importantly for hard-fought principles of justice, Hicks himself doesn't know. His American military lawyer believes he's being railroaded, but our government doesn't care to defend the basic rights of an Australian citizen. Too busy arselicking (the sadly muted and mutilated by BushCo) Uncle Sam, the whole bloody lot of them.

Of course it's possible that Hicks is a bloodthirsty conspiratorial jihadi, but without open presentation of the evidence how will we ever know that for sure? Judging by excerpts from his letters he had at the time of his arrest bought into the extreme Islamist propaganda regarding Zionism hook, line and sinker and doesn't appear very likable thereby, but is that a reason to be indifferent to his basic legal rights being tossed aside?

The implications of the Dreyfus comparisons were upsetting enough.

Then the expert revealed something of which I was unaware: apparently the Howard govt recently introduced legislation whereby the Attorney General can certify that certain information pertaining to the charges against someone can be withheld from the defence in "the interests of national security" and that the accused's legal representative is not allowed to be in the court when that evidence is produced for the judge. The case of a man who has had his Australian passport withdrawn because of an adverse security report that he is not allowed now to examine in order to challenge it effectively was brought forth as an example.

This is so outrageous I can't opine, I've tried and I merely splutter.

If you space-aliens have watched us all for long enough, I'd like you to land and dissect our leaders now, please. Don't worry about anaesthesia before you cut, they're obviously incapable of feeling a thing.

Little kids rock

Seen while driving home from dropping off the togster to his school band practise: an adorably dressed preschool girl holding her nana's hand while waiting at the pedestrian crossing signals. She couldn't just stand there, so she was jumping and dancing on the spot.

BOING! BOING! BOING! BOING! shimmy-wiggle bump-left bump-right BOINGBOINGBOING!

From the body language I bet she was singing which Wiggles or whatever song it was as loud as she possibly could.

Too bloody cute.


Mad scientist at work

Well, that's what the SMH article's accompanying picture would have you believe just by looking. I'm sure this nice boffin in the white coat doesn't always look like he's wondering about photographers a la fava beans and a nice chianti.

Actually, some Victorian scientists "have discovered a gene that could prevent frost damage to wheat plants and save the world's farmers billions of dollars a year."

According to the SMH report, "[the plant] has the ability to inhibit the growth of ice crystals, which prevents it from freezing and dying."

That's pretty bloody impressive. Waves of wheat on the Mongolian steppes, here we come.

Damn, should have taken the kids to the beach yesterday

Not to swim, though. Just to look at the big, huge swell that came around Sydney beaches due to a concentrated low pressure zone further south. And at the mad bastards out riding it.

SMH Photo: Dallas Kilponen

A photo gallery of yesterday's big waves

Am I being too much of a snob?

Am I saving myself as much time and possible grief as I think I am when I refuse to read their blog if I click on a commenter's profile and find that they've listed The Da Vinci Code as a favorite book? Maybe there are some perfectly perspicacious people who nonetheless love this book that I'm missing. But I have severe doubts.

I can understand reading it as a pop-culture phenomenon: I did that, especially as I'd already read Holy Blood, Holy Grail from which the author drew much of his plot. I thought that was a beautifully crafted but mostly crap conspiracy theory then, and Dan Brown did a competent hack job of turning it all into a thriller, but no more. I have no gripe with people who read it from curiosity and gave it the ho-hum it deserves.

But to list it as a favorite? Mere iconoclasm does not a great book make. If the Grail conspiracy stuff has been a great eye-opener for one as to how the early Christians developed their dogma, and the controversies regarding the competing strands of Christian faith that ended up suppressed by Rome, fine. Have some residual affection for it for that.

But don't elevate a clunkily-written hack thriller into favorite book status just because it gives the Vatican and the fundies the finger. Please.

As for the upcoming film? As Brown's annoying stylistic lapses will have to be glossed over to sustain the pace of a movie thriller, the film actually has a chance of being a halfway decent rattling yarn if they don't take all the religious symbology stuff too portentously. How many believe that they will manage that? I will wait to kibbitz on someone else's DVD though - I refuse to part with one sestertius for the dubious pleasure of seeing it.


Strange Men, children and hysteria

Via Ampersand at Alas, A Blog: Pedophilia fears contributed to child's death :
"The toddler wandered from her nursery school, Ready Teddy Go, through a door left open. A bricklayer named Clive Peachey drove past her in his truck. At the inquest, he stated, "I kept thinking I should go back. The reason I didn't was because I thought people might think I was trying to abduct her."

Instead, he assured himself that the parents must be "driving around" and would find her.

A few minutes thereafter, Abby fatally fell into an algae-covered pond."
There's no doubt that child molestation is a real problem, and increased awareness is a good thing. But as Abby's story horribly illustrates, societies in which adults don't feel free to approach or help strange children, are not child-safe.

I know that there are many men who don't feel safe to go up to a distressed child and try to comfort them for fear that other people watching might take them for paedophiles. Yet the fear of paedophilia, while overstated as to frequency, should not be dismissed lightly either. It is rare, but it does occur (although most child abductions and paedophile molestations are not by strangers but by family, neighbours or acquaintances).

What's the answer? Apparently gay male couples in the States in the few areas that allow them to adopt overwhelmingly ask for female infants to avoid the suspicion that they are 'grooming' a boy for sex, and then still have to travel with the child's adoption papers and passport to prove their legal relationship because otherwise 'concerned citizens' take it upon themselves to report the two men with a small child to the police.

This level of paranoia cannot be healthy.

Defiance, horror stories and rape report rates

Despite the immense wave of public admiration for Tegan Wagner's decision to allow her name to be used in the reportage of the trial of her gang rapists, and her widely reported defiance toward them in court, it has to be remembered that some women don't have the same attributes as Tegan that allowed her to overcome major emotional trauma from her experience.

Rape victim Tegan's call

Positive stories such as Tegan Wagner's defiance of her gang rapists do not cause a surge in calls to the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, its manager says.

Rather it is "horror" stories that prompt women to retrieve memories and report their ordeals, NSW Rape Crisis Centre manager Karen Willis said.

The centre had not experienced or expected a spike in calls after Tegan took the extraordinary step of putting herself in the public eye, Ms Willis said.

"Tegan did a great job - we knew she was really strong and determined, and what she's done is incredibly difficult," she said.

"But it's important to remember not every woman can do that - everyone must deal with it in their own way.

"Unfortunately, the sorts of things that trigger people more are the horror stories rather than the good, positive stories."

I'm disheartened by this information. I would like to think that actions such as Tegan's help destigmatise rape, which is still the only crime where the victim is routinely blamed for their own assault, and that destigmatising would help to minimise the trauma that rape entails.

It feels wrong that somehow it is the more prurient reports of rapes, which dwell on horror stories, that actually lead to more rape victims coming forward to report their assaults.

Pollie childcare, Family Benefit B reform, and emergency contraception

Two Australian stories this week indicate some shifts in political thinking about balancing career and family life:

Care for federal MPs' babies at last

POLITICIANS have finally won their campaign to have a childcare centre in Parliament House, just as federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward has declared the nation's childcare system a "mess".

Ms Goward has called on Treasurer Peter Costello to launch an investigation to find out why a "market failure" was depriving families of places.

Goward urges tax changes to help part-time working parents

Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward has urged changes to the tax system to help families where both parents work part-time.

Ms Goward says under the present scheme, stay-at-home parents are entitled to advantages from family tax benefit B.

But she says that should be broadened to include families where both parents work some of the time.

"If family tax benefit B were changed from being one full time and one not in the work force, to one full-time equivalent parent, that would make that family entitled to it," she said.

"Because then I think you would see families where the man wasn't working 40, 50, 60 hours a week to enable her to stay home to get family tax benefit B, and it would be possible for them both to keep their toe-hold in the work force."

It is encouraging to see some thought given to on-site childcare by Parliament: it makes it more likely that other businesses will pick up on the precedent eventually. And I really like the idea of changing the Family Benefit B calculation to one fulltime equivalent parent instead of one fulltime and one stay-at-home. There's a real chance there to cut back on the salary/promotion/superannuation sacrifice that motherhood involves to make for more career parity between couples.

For contrast and for those wishing to be childfree or at least not add to the family they have: a terrific post over at Pharyngula, where PZ Myers presents the basics of how emergency contraception works by blocking ovulation, having no effect on a fertilised ovum and thus not being an abortifacient despite the claims of some fundamentalists.

Why the Wingnuts hate Plan B

If you've never been quite sure about ovulation and the hormonal regulation thereof, it's a lovely clear summary. The comments thread is even better reading than the post.


dreaded lurgy blogging

So, this week autumn has come to Sydney.

The waterbed heater has been turned on, and the winter doona is on the bed.

The kids are sleeping in long-sleeved-long-legged pyjamas.

The skies are that brilliant autumn blue that only comes with ice crystal refraction in the upper atmosphere, but the days are warm, with a breeze just cool enough to make one seek out the sunny spots in the garden.

The brilliant purple of Tibouchina shrubs and trees in every third garden is brightening the streets.

The fashion victims are already wearing special new autumn boots.

And I've got a head cold, and the computer screen makes my head hurt. Light blogging until the sinuses clear up, dear readers.


Town v Gown

There's a gang-rape case in the States that's being much blogged about - 3 players from Duke University's champion lacrosse team allegedly raped/strangled/sodomised an exotic dancer who had been booked to perform at a party while over 40 of their team-mates allegedly looked the other way. The dancer and her companion had been told that they would only be dancing for 5 men at a buck's party.

Via Pinko Feminist Hellcat, it is at least encouraging to see that the Durham town community around the university is engaging in community demonstrations, with university staff and students joining them, to shame the alleged rapists and their team-mates who are protecting them, as reported in The Chronicle. There have been previous incidents in the town involving Duke athletes, in particular the lacrosse team, which the university administration have not dealt with to the satisfaction of the town community.

The demonstrators are carrying signs reading "Real Men Don't Protect Rapists". That's a damn good message.


Best. Hoyden. Evah.


Skate-Kourier thrasher teen superbus.

(The following book report is ending-spoiler-free.)

Quite a few people told me I should read Snowcrash because I love science fiction. Why did none of them tell me I should also read it because one of the main protagonists is a fabulous hoyden, in and out of thrilling adventures and sticky situations, who saves herself and her mates as often as they save her and doesn't spend the entire novel angsting about boyfriends?

I haven't read all that much cyberpunk because it has a genre image that is even more masculinist than most other 'hard' SF, so having read a few Gibsons and thought "interesting, but such a boyspace" this is the first Neal Stephenson book I've read, and it was published in 1992. '92! I could have had this character running around in my head for more than a decade if one, just one, of the male SF geeks who has intermittently encouraged me to read this book over the years had mentioned just a little bit about Y.T. in their litanies of praise for the novel.

But they always told me about Hiro and the Metaverse. And Rat-Things. And maybe Uncle Enzo. All cool, no doubt about it (I'm a little bit in love with Uncle Enzo, actually), fascinating tech-spec stuff. I'll have to reread it again in quite short order to get my head around all that better. Not one of them mentioned Y.T., let alone Juanita as the crucial-ally-hacker whose facial-expression-mimicking software was what made the Metaverse more than just a wankfest game!

You. Bastards.

Guys? Feminists and geekgirls dig female characters who don't just want a boyfriend, 'kay? Just like hacker-Hiros with swords have other goals than girlfriends, and sometimes have more urgent priorities than sex even, because there are cyberdragons to slay and geekprizes to be won, and that's why you cyberpunk-guy-fans love him.

That's the same way most women SF readers feel about Strong Intelligent Kick-Arse Women (SIKAWs). If you want a woman you know and like to read a book you have enjoyed, tell her about the SIKAWomen in the book. They don't have to be bitchy ballbreakers, just SIKAWs who overcome external obstacles as well as the internal fears and anxieties, and who aren't just a prize for the hero to win. You wish she would read the Vorkosigan series? Tell her about Cordelia, Elena and Katerina(oops) Ekaterin, not just Miles. The Night's Dawn trilogy? Ione Saldana, Louise Kavanagh, Mama Skibbow, Syrinx, Alkad Mzu - take your pick.

SF books, particularly the 'hard' SF and cyberpunk subgenres, are full of male protagonists for geekboys to imagine being - hardarse action heroes, brilliant hackers, charismatic leaders. It can be hard for female fans to find female protagonists who can give us the same rush, so if you read a book with a SIKAW, don't flick over her the way we femfans sometimes flick over yet another boyzone buttkicker as we read SF - make a note of her and tell a geekgirl! Then you might just develop a shared interest in the author's work, and from there, who knows?

It's an ungenderbalanced fanworld out there - as any SF convention will show. But you geekboys don't do yourselves any favours in keeping the interest of the femfans. They won't share your SF-space if they don't know about and fall for the SIKAW characters. There are so many guys using Hiro Protagonist as their username, so much fanart out there about Hiro. You know how many images of Y.T. are out there? Perhaps my google-fu is weak, but this one above is the only one I could find. I'm very relieved that I like it.



What's better than

going to see the anarchic stylings of a surreal, almost dadaist, comedian in the art-deco surrounds of the Enmore Theatre?

Seeing the anarchic stylings of a surreal, almost dadaist, comedian whacked out of his brain on horse-tranquiliser strength painkillers after his motorbike accident, that's what. Imagine the strangest scenario you can involving Stevie Wonder and female lobster groupies - I guarantee that Ross Noble is weirder than you.

felabilongtigtog and I had been looking forward to Ross Noble's show for quite some weeks, having enjoyed his stints on ABC-TV's Spicks and Specks immensely. We knew we'd have a good time, but we didn't think we would actually laugh until we cried.

Poor Ross showed the X-ray of his dislocated shoulder before it was fixed up - it appears to be a rotated and impacted fracture of the humeral head, distally displaced approximately 8 cm so his rotator cuff will have been torn to buggery. I think this is the worst humeral fracture-dislocation I've ever seen - it'll probably end up in textbooks. I'm impressed that he only cancelled one show.

He's on for the rest of the week as part of the Cracker Comedy Festival. Catch him if you can.

We're going to see another weird comedian from the British Isles later this month - Dylan Moran. Will he make us cry laughing too?


Why oh why?

There's been another shooting incident in Granville, in the same street as last week's double murder. Police are calling for residents to come forth with any information, especially those in the Middle Eastern community. So far, not a sausage.

The reason noone's coming forth wouldn't have anything to do with this, would it?

MONEY stolen, car trashed, bashed and humiliated, interrogated for hours in a lock-up -- it wasn't what Mamdouh Habib was expecting when he called police to alert them to a fatal shooting in the Sydney suburb of Granville.


One local resident, who asked to be named only as Melissa, backed Mr Habib's version of events.

"There were five or six coppers hitting him, dragging him to the police car. I told them 'why are you taking him, he hasn't done anything'," she said. "The police officer said 'get in your house or we'll arrest you too'."



Where's the champers?

We saw an astounding sight in Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens yesterday after our picnic. No, not the non-blogger Birdman above - that was an unexpected heartwarming sight (the sulphur-crested cockatoo that can just be spotted on the other side of the Birdman's ponytail walked down his outstretched arm to intimidate the crested pigeon into flying off - every time that the pigeon was enticed by soft cooing onto his hand, the cocky waddled menacingly down from the shoulder, and by the time it reached the elbow the pigeon had fluttered down to the ground - this seemed to be a habitual game).

Apparently this chap has been turning up to the same bench in the gardens regularly, to commune with the birds while he listens to his music. There are worse ways of spending a Sydney afternoon. The tigtogsprogs were thrilled that they managed to sit on the end bench and have one of the cockies stay there, begging for head-scratches then sneakily beaktweaking their sleeves. Morgan was happily snapping away just as I was, and Tim missed it, having already left (apparently a large goofy dog needed walking). All the birds were very confident and calm as quite a few people walked around them with cameras.

So this was a loverly (abso-bloomin'-lutely) way to end our day, which turned out better served by the weather sprites than had been feared. It was distressingly gusty when we arrived at 1pm, but we set ourselves up behing the windbreak of a large garden-bed and started tucking in. The usual Sydney harbourside parade passed us by, the sprogs ran around and around and around, the wind calmed and the sun came out and then we saw the preparations begin that culminated in the astounding sight.

It was really very considerate of the wedding to take place on the lawns just in front of where we'd set up our rugs. Free entertainment! First there were the trestle tables, then the folding chairs. The classical trio had just set themselves up when we saw the groomsmen arrive to oversee preparations.

This was where we got a bit snarky, because eight men in matching black suits striding across the lawns wearing wraparound sunglasses has an unavoidable whiff of the Sopranoes around it, and we started speculating about Bridesmaids with Big Hair, aka the Backcombed Bridesmaid Posse (not a bad band name). Being nerds, we speculated that having seven groomsmen attending the bridegroom made it possible for a Pastel Rainbow of Bridesmaids to sally forth. We were getting impatient to see just how bad it might be, but we had to have patience.

There was a lot, A Lot, of black worn by the female guests, which I am certain my granny would have considered a serious faux pas. And much of it was the current floaty fashions, which ordinarily look lovely for an afternoon garden wedding, but don't work all that well when it's windy. And who wears stilettos to a lawn wedding? Apparently, just about everyone, but buggered if I know why. (My gardening mags recommend regular aeration of the lawn using spikes, so perhaps it was quid pro quo.) We continued to amuse ourselves with horror stories of how much the average wedding costs these days ($28,ooo according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures cited by the wedding industry, at least $10,000 according to the budget wedding planning sites) and how unnecessary much of it appears to be (Tim's missus spent less on her wedding togs than I - I hate losing a skinflint brag!).

And then we saw the Astounding Thing - a bride confident enough on "her big day" that the bridesmaids' outfits, all six of them, were flattering and the women wearing them looked comfortable as well as chic. Who could have thought such a thing was possible? We came over all Miss Bingley, "all astonishment".

They were all dressed in the same soft pale green, with various permutations of the chiffon over satin theme, styled to suit varying heights/figures. The bride also looked lovely, and did not appear to have totally sacrificed comfort for fashion. And when the ceremony was over, and she'd wandered back through the crowd in our direction giving and getting hugs, we heard her say "that's enough of that. Where's the champers - it's time to celebrate!" Definitely a bonza broad of the finer appetites. Go girl.

I hope they didn't go mad on spending for the reception, as the ballooning costs of the perfect consumer fashion wedding bemuse me. Why should any wedding cost more than 10 times what one spends on the 21st? I'd be hesitant to spend more than 3 times a 21st party. Yes it's an important day, but bugger that "most important day of your life" bullshit. Standing up in front of kith and kin with your chosen one, vowing to be true to each other, is a powerful ritual. Spending a fortune on it is just a fashion statement.

As a general rule of my own invention, I don't think any wedding should cost more than the honeymoon. Actually the honeymoon should cost twice as much as the wedding IMO. Don't stress out so much, get everybody to let their hair down, dance your feet off, and relax together on a truly excellent honeymoon. And be nice to your bridesmaids - dress them in something flattering.

And the Botanical Gardens on an early autumn afternoon is a damn fine place to get wed.

PS: For rampant bridal industry consumerism abroad, try Spirit Fingers' HK Bridal Series:


Er, it's a bit windy out there

despite how calm and chipper the weatherpixie in the sidebar appears. However, I'm going to the picnic as promised anyway. It's always worth wondering around the Botanical Gardens.

See you there, Morgan and Tim? And anybody else who's secretly planning to come?

Details here.