Sneezing and Considering

The Adventures of Penelope and Fungus


Raising boys [PUBLIC POST]
Leo
snorkel_maiden
This post has been coalescing in my mind for a while.

1 in 3 women will be raped or suffer serious sexual assault during their lives, and virtually all of the people doing this are men. A much smaller proportion of men also suffer sexual assault and rape, and again the large majority of the offenders are men.

I don't for a second think that men are bad, or evil, or genetically pre-disposed to sexual violence, or anything like that. Some of them probably are, but then so are some women. Obviously (!) not all boys commit these crimes but if 1 in 3 women are assaulted, that's a LOT of men whose attitudes are leading them seriously astray. And if they aren't pre-disposed to violence, we (society as a whole) must be doing something wrong in terms of how we are raising these boys and how their attitudes to sex are being formed.

This problem isn't going away at the moment, which means that the 'traditional' ways of educating about sex are clearly not working. Which means that I, as a parent of a boy, am responsible for doing something different.

So what will I do differently? I will teach Leo about sex early on. Puberty is way too late; his attitudes to women and girls will be largely fixed by then. Also talking to a 3 year old about sex is dramatically less embarrassing to everyone than talking to a 13 year old! So he will grow up knowing the mechanics, but more importantly than that I will teach him about consent, and how dangerous it is to assume consent. I will teach him to ASK, and to know that anything less than an enthusiastic YES should be taken as a NO. I will teach him to think about his attitudes to himself as well, and his self respect and self esteem, and I'll have him think about living with himself if he puts his own needs over the person he wants to sleep with.

Part of my loathing of the pink / blue divide comes into this too. Boys shouldn't be learning from the toddler years that girls are different, separate, and somehow other. That seems to me to be so dangerous. He needs to learn that people are people, and that everyone owns their own bodies, and that everyone is deserving of equal respect. And again this is partly why I dress him in pink sometimes.

I don't expect there's anything particularly new about this. But I find it useful sometimes to write out how I feel about things.

"As a mother..."
Passionflower
snorkel_maiden
I hate this phrase. I really hate it. One reason is because it's usually trotted out by Tory yummy mummies in support of some viewpoint that I find despicable, but also because it's essentially meaningless.

It's supposed to convey a sort of moral superiority- a level of insight that those not blessed with children don't have. Mothers see issues like gay marriage, the housing crisis, more clearly because the process of growing something in your uterus makes you think more ethically. Or so the yummy mummies would have you believe. But there don't seem to ever be any justification for it; just an acceptance that motherhood gives women a right to have a voice in any situation, which I find odd. Surely motherhood should only validate an opinion directly related to motherhood?

I'm also having some feminist type thoughts about how mothers are revered somewhat in our society, as if becoming a mother is the highest ambition that a woman can aspire to, and that's why mother's thoughts are so important- as opposed to those of mere women, who can't be relied upon to be coherent. You also don't hear "As a father...." anywhere near as often; the validity of men's opinions isn't dependent on their reproductive status, maybe?

So I thought, as a sort of personal backlash against the phrase, that I'd write about the insights that motherhood has brought me; and in contrast those it hasn't.

I certainly understand more about pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding now than I did before; but as any male gynaecologist will tell you that's not dependent on experience. I think experiencing it possibly helps in some way, with the emotional side of things more than the practical and physical, but I'd still hardly call it an insight, and assuming that someone who hasn't done it can't understand, and empathise deeply, is insulting to humans everywhere.

I know Leo, on a deeply personal level. Again not really an insight. I know my husband and some of my friends deeply and intimately too. Knowing a child as opposed to knowing someone as part of any other type of relationship is not relevant to moral knowledge. On the other hand, knowing and loving anyone can be; if you love someone it's easier to empathise with them and whatever their struggles are. But it's not dependent on the type of relationship. Parents and mothers in particular do not have a monopoly on intimacy.

There's nothing spiritual in motherhood. Someone asked me when Leo was born whether it had changed my mind about the existence of god; but it didn't, and I'm not sure why it would. There is no cosmic significance to having a child. There is immense and sometimes overwhelming personal significance to it, and it can and has enriched my life; but having Leo has told me nothing about the universe. It's taught me a lot about myself, and my capacity for love and patience and joy and frustration and sleep deprivation: again nothing universal. It takes nothing more than a full nappy to remind me that children are extremely, and occasionally spectacularly, biological. Maybe that's an insight of sorts but it's a cheap and rather smelly one! Again though, nothing that makes me more a guardian of human morals than any of my friends with fewer nappies in their lives.

And surely, the fact that anyone who has the appropriate biological apparatus can have children surely tells me that mothers don't have a higher ethical standard than anyone else. There's no test to pass and no morality quiz to take before you can be impregnated. Which, tempting as it might be to say otherwise, is a good thing. Mothers are people, and people are people, and people vary hugely, as do their morals. This is a good thing and for it to continue we need all sorts of different people to have babies. The few absolutes that there are again don't apply particularly to mothers.

It is true that parenthood makes you think about things that a lot of people don't think about before; which school your child will attend, if they attend school, is an example. But a knowledge of catchment areas and OFSTED grades can't be described as moral and again it's open to anyone even if they don't have children. There are many other examples of this sort; like what car seat and buggy to buy; but again no different to a non-parent researching an expensive purchase.

One area that parents do apparently understand better than others is grief. Losing a child is, we are told, the worst sort of loss, and while I hope never to have to experience this myself there are valid biological reasons why this would be the case. But again, I am extremely unwilling to claim that the suffering of a parent is always worse than the suffering of any other bereaved person; suffering is not measured on a competitive scale. Also, the potential for grief surely doesn't give mothers any special insights while it's still only potential, and people who aren't mothers are capable of deep and real empathy and sadness on behalf of others.

To summarise; I'm extremely uncomfortable with the idea that I am allowed more ethical insights now than before I had Leo. I can't see any justification for it. While it's true that I have fulfilled my biological purpose by having a child, I have many other destinies that haven't changed, and limiting women to only viewing the world through the prism of motherhood is deeply problematic. I have other aspects to myself which remain unchanged by my reproductive status, and having children is not a universal requirement for women in order for them to become fully ethical and empathetic human beings.

So, as a mother, and a woman, and a human being, and a thinking person, I recommend that if you hear that phrase at the start of a statement that you immediately become suspicious that the person actually has very little by way of facts and arguments to back up what they are saying.
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My quest
Wimbledon
snorkel_maiden

An update about the last few days at some point. Firstly though, some sippy cups. I have been on a mission to find the perfect cup for Leo. We have several of the Tomy Tippee ones:

which are fine for mealtimes, but no good for when Leo's just charging around (especially if they have milk in) as the contents just pour out if they are upside down!

So I tried some Boots straw cups:

they are ok but again leak when upside down, and somehow manage to wick the liquid up the straw and spill a bit even when the right way up! I think Leo likes the straw action, though.

So I tried a different Tomy Tippee one, with a soft silicone spout that Leo needs to apply pressure to to get drink out:

The problem with this one is that if Leo bashes the spout against anything (a very common occurrence), the drink pours out, and if he drops it and it lands upside down the same thing happens. So again not ideal for play time.

We have a doidy, but there's just no way he's using that by himself for a long time yet:

So on Friday I thought about and bought a Nuby straw cup, with a valve and a soft straw:

which, so far, seems to solve all my cup-related woes! It's easy to hold, easy to drink from, and so far doesn't spill at all. Even when Leo (deliberately) pushes the straw onto things, it flexes in a way that means the valve doesn't open. I am impressed. The final test will be giving to him in the car; if he can't find a way to make it spill in the car I will get rid of all the others and get more of these.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

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Mooning
Kenya
snorkel_maiden
There was a gorgeous and full (?) moon this evening when we got back from work, so I whipped out my camera expecting to need a long exposure. Turns out that it was so bright the best photos I got were pretty standard exposures; this one is 1/30 and others were 1/100 and 1/200!



This does unfortunately almost totally cut out the lovely wispy clouds behind it, but I love the level of detail; if you feel so inclined you can go here and use the magnifying glass above the picture and then the scroll bar bottom right to zoom in. Craters and everything!

This one I set up deliberately to be a desktop wallpaper (and you can download it here if you like!):



It felt good to take some photos again after a while off. As soon as the bulbs are up there will be lots of flower photography to be done, though! There are some other exposures and so on in the album here.
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Photos of the year
Wimbledon
snorkel_maiden
This post has been building for a while!

So, photography. In previous years I’ve taken quite a few pictures and even blogged about some of them, but this year it’s been at a different level; in 2010 I have taken something in the region of 14,000 photos, and published well over 1,000 of those. It’s down to a combination of things; moving house and having a better garden in a nicer and greener area of Reading is really inspiring and in the summer particularly gave me an endless array of things to photograph. Also worthy of a mention is my friend MarcT, who lent me his 100-400mm in the spring, enforcing my desire to get one of my own; and it was his lens that I was using when I took my red kite photo in February. In addition he lent me his macro extender in the autumn, and I still have it, muahahahah! Some of the macro shots later in the year were taken with that.

So now to my photos of the year. There are 24 here; two for each month. I’ve really enjoyed developing my skill and imagination over the year and I think it shows; I started this list in the summer which has been great in itself as I’ve been challenging myself to take photos worthy of inclusion! I’m pleased though that I have such a better idea now of how to go about getting the photo I want, though I’m also not too proud to use the automatic settings if there’s no time to think or plan what I’m doing.

While I really like all the photos here, my favourite of the lot is probably obvious (and it has nearly 450 views on Picasaweb in comparison with a maximum of about 200 for any of the others), but I’d be very interested if anyone thinks any of the others are better. I’m a bit blinkered when it comes to red kites! Not all of them are technically excellent, but the ones that aren’t make me laugh (the kestrel in particular). Some of them were deliberately set up and others are snapshots.

The photos...Collapse )

So that is my 2010 in photos.

In 2011 I hope to finish my garden birds project, or at least get as close as reasonably possible to completing it; I also have a lot of new skills to build on and I know I can get a better red kite, one day! I have tentative plans for a year-long project later on in the year, but that’s another post. I am proud of the fact that in 2010 I have gone from being a keen but bored amateur to a really keen amateur with some nice kit; I also occasionally think I have a flash of talent, though I think persistence normally gets me further than that anyway. That and a generous dollop of patience!

Okay, this is weird
Goldfinch
snorkel_maiden
I'm having a friends cut. I've never done this before. To anyone who finds themselves removed- there is nothing at all personal in this. I'm just having a tidy up and I think I'm only removing people who I barely interact with at all here. If I get that wrong (clutz-fingers) then let me know via PM or something; or if you regularly read my ramblings and find them massively enlightening but don't comment, again let me know. I have no problem with people being here if they find it valuable (baffling as that concept is!). And unless I really click the wrong button I'm not removing any people who I actually know in real life. So.

Excel breakthrough
Wimbledon
snorkel_maiden
I spend a significant amount of my time writing SQL queries for various people; I invariably copy the results into Excel to add column labels etc. Up till today I always used to paste the data block into row 1, and then right click on row 1, insert a new row, and then type the labels in. I don't know if my ridiculous levels of tiredness today are a contributing factor to thinking straight, but I've only just now realised that I could simply paste into row 2 and save myself the effort of inserting that row for the headers.

I usually think of myself as being fairly intelligent, but occasionally I doubt myself. 
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Baby
Lens
snorkel_maiden
Most of the photos I took of little Lily Patey last night I'm not going to publicise much, because they belong to Phil and Emma to do what they want with. I'm pleased with this one though, and Lily is beautiful and well behaved and altogether a pleasure to be around!

 
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Hmm
Wimbledon
snorkel_maiden
It worries me that a science blog such as the Guardian Data Blog (designed to raise awareness of science, numbers, and government data) would print something like this:

"...and that many hospitals are well above the national average."

!!
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Plus one
Wimbledon
snorkel_maiden
1Y33S has become 1Y34S, although I got photos of the addition while IDing it so I haven't made my life any more difficult:



The first photos I've ever taken of a kestrel! This one is the best one although personally I like this one:



Tonight I also got shots of rooks mobbing a red kite, plus a couple of shots of two kites together. There were actually three around, but I couldn't zoom out far enough and quick enough to get shots of all three! In terms of 1Y34S I've added kestrel, blackbird, feral pigeon and rook.

The list...Collapse )
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Project 1Y33S- a.k.a. What Am I Letting Myself In For?
Wimbledon
snorkel_maiden
In the grand tradition of maleghastevilbunreznorsedge and others, I've decided that I'm going to do a Photo Project. Theirs were all a photo-a-day sort of thing I think, so mine is different in that respect. I'm going to try to take a photo of all the bird species I've seen in our garden, and I'm going to try to do it in a year. It's going to be difficult, possibly even impossible, but I'm going to try. Yesterday was the first day that counted, and I started by recording species #33 but also getting a photo of it:



That's far from the best photo of a sparrowhawk ever taken, but it'll do! Allow me a quiet moment of excitement here that we get three types of raptor flying over our entirely standard suburb!

So the list at present (in no particular order) is as follows:

1. Feral pigeon
2. Wood pigeon
3. Collared dove
4. Swan
5. Canada goose
6. Grey heron
7. Great tit
8. Blue tit
9. Long-tailed tit
10. Coal tit
11. Crow
12. Rook
13. Magpie
14. Jay
15. Blackbird
16. Song thrush
17. Robin
18. Dunnock
19. Goldfinch
20. Redpoll
21. Greenfinch
22. Starling
23. Red kite
24. Buzzard
25. Sparrowhawk
26. Herring gull
27.Lesser black-backed gull
28. Black-headed gull
29. Swallow
30. Swift
31. Housemartin
32. Greater spotted woodpecker
33. Nuthatch

The ones marked in red are the ones that are going to be really difficult. Swans fly over, but very quickly, and I think I only saw two pairs right at the beginning of spring so that's going to be a case of being there with my camera at the right moment. Likewise the heron, which I've only seen once-it was probably heading for the pond in the park. The jay I only saw once, out of the front of the house where I don't spend much time. The redpoll I've also only seen once, and the woodpecker I hear all the time but have only caught a glimpse of. I'd have put the nuthatch in red as well- I've only seen one, but I could very easily have got a photo if I'd had my camera next to me as it was hanging around our bird feeders for ages. So I'll leave that one black for now. I think if I fail, but it's with one of these species in red, I won't be too disappointed.

Clearly I have photos of some if not most of these already; but using photos I've already taken makes that side of things way too easy! So only photos taken between 22nd May 2010 and 21st May 2011 will count. I'm also not expecting all of them to be portrait quality shots; though some really nice photos would be a plus. For the purposes of this project, a species will count if I can see it while standing within our house / garden; it's not just those that actually set foot on our property. I've made a public web album for the shots here, and I'll keep that updated as I go along.

Enough writing, though; I should get dressed, feed the birds, and take up station in the conservatory with my camera!

Boids
OMGWTF
snorkel_maiden
Wot I have seen in my garden or near to it (including vertically above it):

  • Feral pigeon
  • Wood pigeon
  • Collared dove
  • Swan
  • Canada goose
  • Grey heron
  • Great tit
  • Blue tit
  • Long-tailed tit
  • Coal tit
  • Crow
  • Rook
  • Magpie
  • Jay
  • Blackbird
  • Song thrush
  • Robin
  • Dunnock
  • Goldfinch
  • Redpoll
  • Greenfinch
  • Starling
  • Red kite
  • Buzzard
  • Herring gull
  • One of the black-backed gulls- probably lesser
  • Black-headed gull
  • Swallow
  • Swift
  • Housemartin
  • Greater spotted woodpecker
  • Nuthatch
I think that's it, for now anyway. Come the summer I expect I'll be able to add swallows and swifts but that remains to be seen. The swifts around here love the old Victorian terraces; our new road is newer than that, but I expect we'll still see them.

Edited to add- since last entry I've added swifts, swallows and housemartins, black-headed gull, woodpecker and nuthatch, and buzzard. Not bad going, I think! Currently on 29 species. I wonder what the 30th will be! Probably sparrow, seeing as I've seen them in the road and generally around, but not specifically in our garden as yet.

Edited again to add- I completely forgot about the swans (I've seen two or three pairs), Canada geese and single grey heron. Make that 32!

For the purposes of this highly unscientific survey, "our garden" is defined as the plot of ground that we own but also the big trees in the garden next door, and anything sitting on fences around other gardens for any length of time. It's my survey so I can define it how I like :D 
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More photos
Wimbledon
snorkel_maiden
 My friend lent me the lens again:



My precious! I'm sure that using it is extremely good for my biceps as it's pretty heavy!

Yesterday was a splendid day. We woke terrifyingly early (6:50am!!) but both feeling surprisingly awake, so we didn't bother going back to sleep. We ended up spending pretty much the whole day outside. I'd suggested to Tom first thing that at some point we could get rid of the slightly pointless fence and gate halfway down the garden; the previous owners had a dog and we assume that they used it to keep her in one or other half. When I suggested it I wasn't expecting it to be done by the end of the day, though! It's going to look much nicer, I think; we had to take down a rosebush, but I have five others so it's not the end of the world and the garden looks a lot more open. We've extended the lawn by a foot on one side of the garden and more of the flowerbed on the other side is accessible so I think it was really worth doing.

I did lots of other bits and pieces in the garden too; I got some weeds out of the drive, weeded some of the front garden, sorted out some seedlings in the greenhouse, took two (quite possibly pointless) cuttings of the rosebush that we took down, and watered a lot of my tubs. And of course, on a day like yesterday (spookily quiet with no planes going over) I had my camera out.

Bird porn...Collapse )

Today I got up early (I'm clearly going mad) and went for a run; I'm now sitting here sorting photos with my camera at my side, and watching the F1. Apparently they are worried about the Spanish Grand Prix in a couple of weeks because of the #ashtag; it takes six 747s to transport the entire F1 setup and they are naturally worried about getting to Spain on time to set up. I'm actually surprised it doesn't take more than six planes, but that's not including personnel who fly on commercial airlines.

Later on I intend to do not much, apart from prowl with my camera and enjoy the sunshine.

Killers
Atheism
snorkel_maiden
 Urgh, this story. It is, of course, terrible that the trainer has been killed. However. I absolutely detest the keeping of marine mammals in captivity. As far as I'm concerned there's absolutely no justification for it at all and the very idea makes me angry. Zoos I can get, because they serve a purpose; which is the breeding and reintroduction of endangered species to their natural habitats. The education of people about the animals is a nice accident which goes along with that, but in itself education isn't a justifiable reason for keeping animals in zoos; entertaining people certainly isn't. Since marine mammals don't breed in captivity, and anyway that's not the aim of places like SeaWorld, I can't justify them. (We have Gerald Durrell to thank for almost single-handedly changing the purpose of zoos and our perception of them.)

There's also the issue, killer whales aside, of certain animal keepers treating dangerous predatory animals as pets. I can't stand it when a tiger, or bear, or whatever, kills it's keeper and then is destroyed itself; usually for acting in a way entirely in keeping with it's nature. It may do tricks for you, and it may eat it's dinner out of a bowl with it's name on it, but the second you forget that it's a wild animal, and stop giving it the respect that that demands, you're putting yourself at risk. The root of the problem there I think is that some people forget that the true domesticated animals (cats, dogs, horses, farm animals) have been domesticated for tens of thousands of years and have adapted to living with humans; and when you consider the damage that they can do, the stupidity of treating a wild animal in the same way soon becomes clear. Being bred in captivity, even three or four generations in captivity, is not the same thing as domestication.

Don't even get me started on the pointlessness of reintroducing Keiko into the 'wild'.

Argle.

/rant.

This article sums it up better than I could, and without the anger.

Caddyman's Halloween Ghost Story
Wimbledon
snorkel_maiden
This is my story written for caddyman 's Halloween ghost or horror story challenge. The story has to be at most 500 words and has to be inspired by a song lyric. I think my source is glaringly obvious but then I would- I wrote it!

That Morning (500 words exactly)Collapse )

Insanity
Wimbledon
snorkel_maiden
Last night Tom and I were watching Heroes; Jedi was faffing around being a cat and getting in the way. At the end of the episode I looked over at him to see this:



Elegant as ever, Jedi! He stayed still long enough for me to get some photos and then got annoyed by us laughing; at which point he went frantic, raced up the stairs and into our bedroom. At least, he would have raced into our bedroom if the door hadn't been shut! As it was, he crashed headfirst into the door, slid along it, and fetched up against the wall.

And then had a frantic wash, because that's the cattish way.

Poor beast, it can't be easy getting through life with that little brain.

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Did I do the right thing?
Boundin'
snorkel_maiden
This morning as I was walking to work I was passed by what looked like a skip lorry or a waste disposal lorry. There was a strong smell and after it went past I saw loads of smoke and flames coming out of the back! I don't understand why none of the people driving went to any effort at all to stop the driver and let him know, but as I was walking I couldn't catch up with it; and because there was lots of other traffic I couldn't get the numberplate either. The only thing I could think of to do was to ring the police. They didn't seem to think I was wasting their time; I didn't want to do nothing, but I'm not sure what they could really do about it either.

X posted so sorry if you see this twice!
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Tell me something
Wimbledon
snorkel_maiden
I saw this somewhere and thought I'd try it. On this post anonymous comments comments are enabled and encouraged. Tell me a secret, have a rant, do whatever you like. One caveat is that I might cry if you're mean to me.
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English
Boundin'
snorkel_maiden
I probably shouldn't laugh at the efforts of people for whom English isn't the first language, but I have to admit that this little gem this morning had me in stitches. I'd raised a help call with our suppliers and in their usual fashion they'd closed it immediately without giving the advice needed to fix the problem. The email was signed off with this:

"Please reopen the call if you need any further existence."

I will have to reopen the call, because they didn't fix the problem, and I'm so tempted to ask for a little more existence when I do!

I had another a few months ago- this time someone asking for my advice, and apparently he was "looking forward to waiting for your response". I almost felt bad replying. I don't like to ruin people's fun.


The Dead Hours
Bullshit
snorkel_maiden
So we're entering that quiet phase of the afternoon, from 2-4, which sometimes takes WEEKS to pass, I swear. So in the spirit of passing the time, here's a random and pointless poll.


Poll #1410337 Pointless

What are you doing this weekend?

Something
8(61.5%)
Nothing
5(38.5%)

I'm going to the pub tonight- should I drink:

Beer?
3(23.1%)
Cider?
5(38.5%)
Wine?
5(38.5%)

Have you seen the new Star Trek film yet?

Yes
5(38.5%)
No
8(61.5%)

If YES, did you like it?

Yes
5(100.0%)
No
0(0.0%)

I'm going to see Terminator Salvation next week!

Oooh let me know how it is?
8(61.5%)
That's nice, dear.
5(38.5%)

Clicky?

Clicky.
12(92.3%)
No.
1(7.7%)

How long DOES it take to get from 2pm till 4pm on a quiet Wednesday?

WEEKS, I swear.
10(76.9%)
2 hours.
2(15.4%)
No time at all.
1(7.7%)

The likelihood that one of my cats will have been sick when I get home?

0%
1(7.7%)
50%
9(69.2%)
100%
3(23.1%)

Ok, so writing that killed a whole five minutes.

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