Thursday 28 March 2013

Red square marriage equality logo with two long cats.
Just created this. Share and enjoy.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Street Walking

There's something wrong with the culture when you can't even cross the street without harassment. At ten to six this afternoon, a car drove past me and laughter spilled out, aimed at me.

"Bro, that ain’t even street harassment," I tweeted.

Thinking about it a little more, I got madder.

He thought that being a lady on a public street was shameful, or worthy or ridicule. (Despite the title of this post, I was dressed in my jeans-and-a-top office-causal uniform.)

Maybe he thought I was a pedestrian, and he was laughing at that. (I'd parked about a hundred metres away. Maybe he thinks that a car is a destination in itself, not a tool for going somewhere more interesting.)

Maybe someone in his life belittled him and he was lashing out instead of dealing with his issues.

Maybe he thought I'd be cowed and next time be less bold about existing in public. (Like in this post - making excuses for myself all the way through, even though I've done nothing wrong.)

Street harassment effectively turns the street into an unsafe space, a space where you cannot be sure of your physical, emotional, or mental safety. You avoid unsafe spaces. You don't go through the park after dark, you don't walk down that alleyway.

When everywhere is an unsafe space, like the streets can be for women - what then? Do you stay off them? Do you drive, quickly, between the office and home and the supermarket? What do you miss if you do that? A chance to participate in culture, to shape and change the world we live in, because some tool was having a bad day and wanted to make you feel ashamed just for existing?

But what’s more shameful than being a lady on a public street? Being someone who thinks that’s worthy of ridicule.

"Although," I tweeted, "Let’s be fair: the dude’s clearly not interacting with women a whole lot, if you catch my drift."
Selfie of me and Jenn. We're grinning and wearing big, dark sunglasses.
 Mt Tongariro in the distance. It is snowcapped and the sky is very blue. 
Image of a snowcapped, perfected pointed, mountain in the distance.

Jenn in a red hat, standing in front of a mountain.
Selfie of me and Jenn, wearing hats and identical smiles.
Mt Taranaki, still visible in the distance. The view is mostly sky.
A red-volcanic mountain.
A closer view of the red mountain.
Blue lakes in a red volcanic crater under a blue sky. 
Me, with my arms lifted in celebration. Jenn, with her arms lifted in celebration.
Selfie of me and Jenn. We are wearing beanies and have zipped up our jackets.
 A view of a mountain with a red streak down it, under a very blue sky.
Jenn sitting cross-legged, looking at the crater lakes.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Cards Against Humanity

Skip this post and get right to the game.

I don't have people over for dinner all that often, so it's kind of an occasion when I do. We ate figs baked with cheese and bacon, with huge wedges of sourdough bread and butter, and for dessert we ate synthetic flavoured ice cream with pop rocks sprinkled over it. After dinner, the conversation foundered a little bit. "Let's play a game," I said after a minute, and fired up the printer.

I'd wanted to play Cards Against Humanity for a while, and after-dinner seemed the perfect time to do it. "It's an open source party game," I explained, feeding the printer. "You take these cards we're making - have you ever played Apples To Apples?" No one had.

"Well - there are black cards with questions, and white cards with answers. Every round one player - the Card Czar - draws a black card, and the others have to answer it with a white card. The Card Czar picks which answer is funniest, and that player keeps the black card - that's a point."

"How do they tell which card is funniest?" asked K, logically.

"It's subjective. So you can play strategically, a bit."

"Assless chaps," read J.

"All the cards are - awful. Look at this - 'Daddy, why is mummy crying?'"

"That's a question card. Look, answer it with a white one - 'Lance Armstrong's missing testicle,' or - 'Puberty.' But first we have to cut all these damn things out, so get another pair of scissors."

Of course we laugh when we get together. But we don't always laugh until we cry. "This game is great," said J. "We should play it again."

As we played, we sifted out the Americanisms we didn't understand, and anything too rapey-sounding to be funny. 

In my Googgling, I discovered there's some dissidence in the card playing community about "sanitizing" CAH like that. It's not how the inventors intended the game to be played, humour's a way of dealing with issues, and can't you take a joke?

CAH was released under a creative commons license: "That means you can use and remix the game for free, but you can’t sell it." Remixing is how the inventor intended for the game to be used.

If you genuinely have a joke about ethnic cleansing, I'd love to hear it. I will listen carefully, and if it's funny, I'll laugh and repeat it when you're not around. But I bet you have a lot of other jokes too. I bet you can talk all night about horses walking into bars and men from Nantucket without ever once mentioning ethnic cleansing. If that's not the case, and ethnic cleansing is the nucleus of your humour, that all your conversations revolve around ethnic cleansing, and you drop ethnic cleansing every other sentence like a verbal tic - well, I probably wouldn't be your friend.

What's more likely is that you can go entire years without using the phrase "ethnic cleansing," or "pixelated bukkake," or "two midgets shitting into a bucket," or just about any Cards Against Humanity Card. No one card is essential to make up the game, and taking out some of the triggering things isn't going to make the game weaker.

Triggers are things which can bring up awful memories or emotions. They're things that make you cry, basically.

The last time I was triggered by something, something which I'm sure seemed innocuous to the person upsetting me, I stormed out of the gathering, made my way home in tears, and self-harmed in a way I had managed to avoid for, oh, three years. (I don't want to get any worried phone calls - I'm fine - it's not the sort of harm that does any real damage, and I haven't done it since.)

That was caused by a careless word. I'm sure they'd say, "I was only talking," which is well and good, except they were talking, I was freaking out and they weren't savvy enough to pick up on it. I know how conversations work: there's a volley back and forth, with all parties participating and enjoying it. When only one person's talking, it's a lecture.

Jokes work kind of the same way. When everyone's laughing, it's humour. When someone's deeply, profoundly upset by the punchline, that's not funny.

So I took the challenge laid out by Cards Against Humanity's creators, and remixed the game.

I've taken out all the rape and pedophile references, the Americanisms, most of the references to race and celebrities, and some American historical references... Anything which I think might be upsetting or confused someone when we played. In the interests of thoroughness, I kept a list of which cards I removed - I'm sure I missed writing down a couple of cards, but the outraged or the curious can view the list here.

I prettied up the remaining deck so you can download it too. It's here. Please note that this is just a safer version - it's not guaranteed 100% safe for everyone. I suggest you go through it yourself before playing (or just go buy Apples to Apples).

You might also like to download the extra cards I made to help make up for the ones I removed. All the pictures in this post are from this deck. Dylan Reeve has also made a NZ version.

Invite me round for dinner. Let's play.

Thursday 21 March 2013

Follow Friday - Mallelis

Mallory Ortberg (@mallelis) is a writer working differently with the new medium. Yes, Twitter is a new medium; it's a new way of presenting and consuming information, with constraints, and conventions, some of which this writer accepts, and some she rejects.

Waterstones Oxford Street (@WaterstonesOxfordSt) is a bookstore. It's a bookstore which has worked out that you're unlikely to pop in and buy a book because they tweeted: "40p off best sellers until Tuesday!!" and decided to make you love them instead.

Facebook Gifting

Facebook is rolling out Gifts, promising to shit all over every small online retailer. The way it works, is you click Buy A Gift, select a real item, and pay for it with real money. The recipient gets a notification, and can swap it out for something they actually want, before entering their address details. It's pretty neat.

Screencap of Facebook's Gifting page.

I went window-shopping for a minute - I'd have no problem picking birthday gifts for 90% of my friends from here.

I liked the Kiva gift cards, the fruit box, and the octopus cup, if you're thinking of what to get for my birthday.

Screencap of Facebook's Gifting page, featuring "mustache soap".A coffee mug with a ceramic octopus on the bottom.
Don't like it? Swap it out after your gifter has picked it for you, and before it's posted out. I don't mind the idea of something being regifted - I never write in books before I give them, so they can be passed on if they're surplus to requirements - but somehow the idea of something being swapped out before it arrives feels a bit different somehow.

I found the Wine section questionable - aren't there laws around advertising booze to minors? Facebook users are - theoretically - aged 13 and up, although I'm sure they've thought of a way to stop the demon drink being sold to kids.
Screencap of Facebook's Gifting page, showing wine for sale.

There were also a lot of American-based stores.

Screencap of Facebook gifts for Target and Walgreens.

This'd be because rollout is limited to America. I can give Facebook my money, but only to give a gift to my two American friends.

Screencap of my two friends.Screencap of more friends, each labeled with Gifts can only be sent to people living in the US.

What I'd like to do is use it to buy gifts for my sister and her family in the UK. There are baby gifts! And I wouldn't have to go to the post office!

Screencap of one of the gifts - glow in the dark dinosaur stickers!
Facebook gifting falls down a little on the lack of variety. I give my sister-in-law cookbooks each Christmas. (We've met, like, twice, but she said she really, really liked the first cookbook I got her, so she's getting another one each year forever.) I'm not sure Facebook would have cookbooks, or have the sort I like  to pick out for her (New Zealand made, with a focus on baking), or if they did, would they ship to the UK?

It'll be interesting to watch this grow. Would I use this if it was in NZ? Probably. There's a few people each year who I think I ought to get a gift for, but don't quite manage it.

Usually I only give a gift when I go to someone's party. Because, gifts! Who really needs them? All my pals are doing okay and have any number of material objects - a present is unlikely to bring them more joy than my presence. A present I'd buy anyway.

Gifts form a nice part of a social contract though - when you go to a birthday party, the gift says, "I am glad you put in effort to having me round. I put in forethought and effort before seeing you tonight. Also, I'm going to eat your food and there's a small but non-zero chance I may puke in your toilet. Please accept this notebook/art print of a cat/bottle of wine as payment for the hassle and money I will cost you."

Gifts can also say: "You're really special to me. I'm glad I have you in my life, but it's too awkward to say that out loud in case you think I want to make out. Anyway, I saw this coffee mug and thought of you."

Facebook gifts work for that second gifting-reason - the 'I-was-thinking-of-you', but not the first. I predict that in a couple of years, sending a Facebook gift will be as tacky as sending an ecard. If it even lasts that long.

-- Update! -- A couple of my friends are having birthdays this week (August 2013). M invited me to her birthday party; we've posted cat pics on one another's walls; have lots of friends in common, and attended an event together last week. I went on holiday with C in a group a couple of years ago - I don't even think we're tagged in pictures together. Facebook only notified me of C's birthday, because C lives in America, and I can send her a gift.

It's cool you want to push gifts, Facies. I get it, I really do. But hiding my other friend's birthdays is not the way to do it.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Here is an interactive illustration of the wage gap in New Zealand.

And here are some screencaps:

At first you think things are about the same - how far we've come! How progressive! - and then you notice they're written with different scales. The top line is $1,000 in the fella's graph, just $600 for the ladies.

Cake Days

The feminist group which I help run just had  a cake day.

It's a social group, with almost no activism at all (that one time we wrote letters is the extent of it), which may explain why we only remembered our birthday two months after it, and decided to wait until we turned 1.5.

We had cake. (One cake picture further down this post is somewhat NSFW.)

 I read out a speech I'd prepared and everyone pretended to listen politely. This is what I said:
Me and K went down to the silos again to see a show.

The show was Concretions, an installation by three artists: Robert Carter, Kim Newall and Clinton Watkins. K's friend Rob invited her, and she invited me.

Saturday 16 March 2013

The drought isn't just in Auckland, of course - the drought is in the whole North Island. I'm in Auckland though.

Do you remember the drought in 1994? I was eight. We studied it in school, and the backyard grew deep, dry cracks that reached all the way down to the centre of the earth. My brother found some 44 gallon drums to link up to the downpipe on the roof, even though there wasn't any rain, even though why would we want rainwater even if it did rain? They did catch water eventually, which was never used for anything (why would you need to water the garden in the rain) and grew vast colonies of mosquitoes to torture us all.

There was another drought in 1998, although not as bad. That year we played under the trees: pulling apart pine needles (if you get the nobbly bit at the top, you get a wish), and looking for dinosaurs in the bush behind the school.

It occurs to me now, that the endless summers of my childhood aren't some trick of the memory. The months and months of endless sun were the reality for everyone. It also explains adult's obsession with water distribution: family trips to the pump house at Lake Pupuke ("All the water used to come from this lake! ...Yes, even though it had duck poos in it."), and to the dams in the Waitakeres ("Your grandfather helped build that dam! See, the sign has his name on it.") and my grandmother showing us the spot on the beach between Takapuna and Milford where you can drink fresh water from the sand. ("It comes from Lake Pupuke; all around here used to be a volcano, and volcanic rock is very porous so it filters through. ...It doesn't have enough duck poo in it to matter, and it tastes fresh.")

Later, they put in a pipe to bring us more water. There was worry in the paper about whether that water had poo in it. It came from a river - somewhere. The paper was as big as a bedsheet, too big to read in a chair or at the table, so I spread it out on the floor in the sun and sprawled over it. Sanitation Fears With New Water Pipe, said the paper.

That pipe brings us enough water so we don't have to worry - too much. We're not going to run out of water, like Wellington might. There's still superficial shows of solidarity. People aren't washing their cars as much. On the curbsides, the grass is dead and cracked, while over the fence, there is an oasis.

This tension between inside/outside is palpable. Don't let the neighbours think we're wasting water, think of all the poor farmers/the kids love playing on the lawn and in the pool.
Some of the houses on this street are being done up. These people just got new grass put in a couple of weeks ago. You can understand the hose. It must have cost them a fortune, all that grass. 
These people got new grass as the same time as their neighbours.
There are differences which just can't be explained away by a change in elevation. Some people have pipes, and some people don't.
My most popular post is about abortion. This isn't because it said anything new or interesting or ground breaking, but because people are Googling abortion in new zealand and finding me.

I asked someone who actually knows something (I just know blogging! I'm not a health professional!) and compiled a short list for anyone looking for resources for accessing abortion in New Zealand.
Follow @Dominos_AN for updates from Domino's Antarctica.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Follow Friday - Doctor Pug

Doctor Pug (@DoctorPug) is a doctor who happens to be a pug. Why are you still asking questions?

Texts from Last Night (@TFLN - NSFW, though this post is) collects and tweets drunken text messages.

Self Aware Roomba (@SelfAwareROOMBA) is a Roomba who has gained sentience, and a Twitter account. Tragically, Roomba has not resigned itself to the fact it is vacuum cleaner, and is suffering one long existential crisis.

5. Increase strength, muscle tone.
4. Quell free-floating guilt caused by living in a looks-obsessed society and triggered by that girl at work's diet talk.
3. Quell guilt at money spent on gym gear, membership.
2. Avoid rush hour traffic by working out directly after work at the gym by work.
1. Dawning realisation that the combination of internal training and/or recumbent bike and a smart phone means you can read the Internet for an hour and feel irritatingly smug about it.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

What Next Then?

Coley Tangerina's blog post This is no country for women lays out all the things wrong for women in New Zealand. The pay gap, sexual harassment, violence and that no one seems to mind it so much.

The post doesn't suggest a way forwards from this. Now, dear reader, you're enlightened and saddened. This new knowledge has made your life a measurably worse: where do you go from here?

I suggest action. Moving forwards, even in the smallest steps, makes a difference. Even if the difference is just to you, because you consciously rejected the status quo which you know is wrong.

Write a letter. Tell someone they're an idiot. Write an angry blog post. Will it do anything? In the short term, probably not. In the long term? If everyone else does something too? How do you think we got the vote in the first place?

Take care of yourself: surround yourself with good people. I help run a feminist drinks group: we meet regularly and bitch about this stuff. We started with just two members, and now we're ten or fifteen or thirty. I've found having a place where I can blow off steam, and voice opinions without being shouted down for being female immensely valuable. Find a friend and start your own little group: write letters at the pub and tell each other what your saleries are so we can all see the pay gap.

You've seen the problem. Now be the change.
"My Family" stick figure stickers decorate the windows of people movers all over the country. Perfect little happy families, the family inside the car mirrored in the stickers without. 

Here's mine:

A car's rear window, with six cat stickers surrounding a lady sticker.

By definition, jokes are funnier if they're not explained. But this isn't a joke, not exactly.

"Cat lady" is insulting and dismissive. It means a woman (there are no "cat men"), who is so repulsive she can garner love and affection only from kitties and thus, has them in abundance. To take the label and apply it to oneself is hardly subversive, but it's still unexpected, a little startling.

A picture of me, holding up a yellow cat. That's not the joke. The joke is I have precisely zero kitties. Buttons, who I love outrageously, really belongs to next door; the Burrow is a rental, so Flatmate and I can't have a kitteh of our own, as much as we'd like to.

So my sticker is a lie. All except for the "me" figure, right? She has glasses! It's exactly right!

Sort of. The stickers, at least at the shops where I bought them (yes, I visited multiple stores) only come in pet, baby, young boy, young girl, older boy, older girl, father, mother, grandparent. There's no lifestage between adolescence and parenthood, no generic woman or man. Family is defined as nuclear and breeding.

So, I have a Mother Laptop sticker to represent me. Motherhood aside, the laptop and the phone do show a side of my personality (the side which is writing this on a laptop and who'd require a surgical procedure to separate her from her phone).

I like to think I'm more multifaceted than that. I could have chosen a female figure with a ukulele or knitting needles and felt it just as accurate. I could have picked a figure in a foofy 50s style dress or jeans, instead of generic femmey officewear. But there weren't these options: I didn't pick a figure that represented every side of me, but the one which represented me at all.That big-dress wearing, knitting, ukulele playing stick figure? She doesn't exist. Women, in sticker-land, are mothers with a single, easily drawn, interest.

The entire My Family sticker range.

We can extrapolate this. People movers across the country don't just carry Fishing Dad/Shopping Mum/Soccer Boy/Ballet Girl/Baby but three dimensional figures, as nuanced and as real as I am. The difference is, they're not turning to their personal blogs to explain to no one in a thousand words how interesting they are. Maybe their creative outlet should be widened beyond the back of their minivans. Maybe our idea of a family's role in society should be widened beyond has children and a stupid car and accept that families are people too.

Saturday 2 March 2013