Category Archives: Blogging

Minor Rant

As if it’s not enough that the entire internet seems to have worked out that I am a girl in my early twenties and therefore probably either pregnant or concerned about my weight or desperate for horrible cheap shoes or plastic surgery; as well as all manner of other highly well-targeted but to be honest slightly offensive advertisements – spammers are getting insulting as well.

I get quite a lot of comments on this site which get sorted straight into spam, full of the usual links to porn, penis-enlargers, and claims that they can help me make a squillion pounds on this blog. And every day or so I delete the whole lot, not without scanning through them first because once in a while something lands up in ‘spam’ which is actually a real live comment from a real human being who has something to say and isn’t trying to scam me or sell me something.

Anyway, I’ve got a couple of messages like the following recently and frankly it really pisses me off:

‘Why have you deleted my post? It was very useful information and i promise atleast one person found it helpful unlike the rest of the comments on this site. I’ll post it again. Tired of obtaining low numbers of useless visitors to your site?…’

And so it goes on in the usual spammy vein. But yeah, Mr Spammer, you have just singlehandedly riled me and abused all the people who comment on this site and that is neither funny, big, nor clever. Whoever thought this was a good idea in terms of getting themselves and their shoddy business out on the net is really not thinking straight. Or just embracing flame culture in all its overblown hideousness.

So yes, I’m a bit cross, with an invisible bot out there somewhere and whoever it was that set it up. And as usual massively curious as to the question of whether there is anyone out there who falls for these things.

But then, the internet is full of stupid people. Someone right now is wrong on the internet.

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Filed under Blogging, Internet, Society, World

Why I Don't Think I'm As Feminist As All That

This is likely to be the most poorly expressed collection of thoughts I’ve ever written. Apart from a couple of my drunken journal entries. Those are excellent. But no, they’re not likely to ever make it up here, sorry.

Anyway. This is one of those few posts that has made it into my drafts folder. It’ll take the form of a disjointed kind of a list.

Firstly: rape jokes. I sort of feel like I ought to find them inappropriate because, you know, rape is a terrible, terrible thing, without any hint of non-seriousness there whatsoever and no, I mean it. But, for crying out loud: Dead Baby jokes. Madeleine McCann jokes. The Bunny Suicides. A hell of a lot of the sense of humour of (primarily young people and probably mainly students) revolves around some seriously terrible things. Perhaps this is how we process those things, perhaps it’s just that things are funny when they really shouldn’t be – why else would Jeff’s Giggle Loop be such an on-the-nail description of that kind of laughter you laugh when you’re at a funeral or your spouse is breaking up with you? We laugh at inappropriate, terrible things, perhaps because we’d otherwise cry, or perhaps they’d make us angry, or perhaps it wouldn’t, but we have to react in some way.

No, I’m not getting into the psychology of what makes us laugh. Bother that. If it’s OK to laugh at dead babies and Madeleine McCann and so on, then sure, if you think of something genuinely witty to say about rape, say it. If it’s not OK to laugh at rape jokes then dead babies and Madeleine McCann are out too, OK? Good.

Secondly: I like cooking, I like doing things for other people, I love it when you create something edible and it makes someone else happy, or you pass your plate over at a restaurant because the portions are, as ever, huge, and you get to watch someone you love slurp white wine sauce out of a mussel shell whilst looking as happy as Larry at you. I like knitting things, it’s only a matter of time before I do actually kidnap a small child (no, not really, I’m not utterly daft) and I hope to goodness that someday I get married and have children and don’t have to work so that I get to spend lots of time at home bringing them up. I get a bit gooey about little boys in school uniform or choirboy outfits or whatever and I’m already eyeing up the Hornby. I don’t think this is incompatible with the fact that I do want a really interesting research career first/later in life and I am quite independent and would like to do a number of things first.

Thirdly: I really would rather not walk home alone late at night. I know, technically, that if I was a Good Feminist I’d carry a rape alarm and learn how to poke someone’s eyes out with the heel of my DMs or something (not that I own DMs), but actually, I’d rather get a taxi, make someone walk me home, or be home before it gets late. I will walk home alone, and I’m not scared to do so, I just can’t help thinking that it isn’t a good idea.

Fourthly: Women’s magazines are full of airbrushed, long-legged beauties who look decades younger than they should and impossibly perfect. They wear clothes which are pedalled to us constantly, bags we must have in order to fit in. Personally I don’t tend to enjoy those magazines much – I get all the fashion I need from the various newspaper supplements in the Times or the Guardian, and I really don’t care about celebrities. Furthermore I think very few people actually are made to feel inadequate by the terrifyingly unattainable role models and examples set in these magazines. Perhaps one is as a teenager – I know it certainly angered me at the time that even in magazines aimed at teenage girls one is constantly told how to diet and all the rest of it when really we should be getting the message that, actually, you are who you are, and that is wonderful. But I don’t think anyone once they reach a certain age or level of maturity is made to feel inadequate by the frank mythologisation of womanhood in women’s magazines and basically everyone just enjoys them for what they are. I don’t think they’re massively damaging.

Fifthly, a slightly different point: the norm for women at this point in time is to shave their legs and their underarms and pluck their eyebrows and get rid of (I don’t know how, this isn’t a problem I have) any trace of a moustache. And so adverts telling us to buy razors and feel like goddesses obviously appear on television. Again, I don’t have a problem with this. I am happy to fit in with a cultural norm that dictates that I should either shave my legs or keep them out of sight. And I know there are a number of women who don’t want to shave their legs or remove their moustaches or whatever and they just bloomin’ well go for it. I don’t think adverts telling you that using a certain razor will make you feel like a goddess are saying you can’t feel like a goddess if you have hairy legs – that’s as odd a proposition from the advert in question as saying that using that razor will actually turn you into a goddess.

So, while in other countries women are denied education and many other basic rights, whilst in some places life is an awful lot harder if you are a women; whilst there are undeniably people who we may well encounter every day who think less of me because I am a woman than you, because you are man; whilst domestic violence and rape and things occur all the time and that is utterly terrible, I still wouldn’t say I was a capital-F Feminist. I can’t see what is wrong with the media  as it is commenting on the way Mrs Cameron dresses, say (heck, they also comment on the dress sense of Mr Cameron and all the rest), or telling me that I should use this razor to shave my legs. I think we are awfully lucky in the UK today to have the choice to be and dress and sleep with whoever we want, to be able to marry who we like and when we like and only if we like. I like dressing up and wearing lipstick and playing the role of a woman in society. I like being a woman, I like being a girl, I like being a lady, and conforming to those stereotypes. I like it when some of the men I know patronise me a bit for being a bit of a girl. I will laugh at rape jokes, I will shave my legs and feel like a goddess, I will stare in wonder at the new seasons capes and jersey dresses and boots and I don’t mind in the least that the vagaries of fashion want me to buy new things each season because, when I have the money, I like buying those things.

This is what I’m concluding: I am not a Feminist. I believe in equality and freedom for all people in all places and while I care that women get raped and are denied basic rights to education and divorce and the right not to be stoned for adultery after having slept with someone new after becoming a widow, I also care that men are fighting wars and battles and gunfights over who they are, who they believe in and the colour of their skin; that children are dying every day from a lack of clean drinking water; that it’s harder to get into a good university simply because you’ve grown up on a council estate and gone to a state school; that our economy is in real trouble and I do worry that Osbourne is cutting too much, too fast, and that that will spell trouble in the end. I am a feminist insomuch as I am also a childist and an andronist and an environmentalist. It should surely all come as part of a package – part of being a decent human being is, surely, caring about others, no matter what or who they are.

This post was originally meant as a lighthearted riposte to some shocking allegations thrown at me in the pub a week or so ago. Whoops.

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Filed under Blogging, Introspection, Life, Religion, Society, Thoughts

Save The Internet

OK, I know a number of my regular readers will probably already know about this and will be able to talk about it more knowledgeably, so, first, look at the Save The Internet site, which is all about Net Neutrality. And then – is this something that’s only going to be a problem in the states or will this affect us in the UK too; and if it doesn’t affect us, are UK service providers likely to go the same way too?

Because I suppose if that is what happens, we can wave goodbye to the blogosphere and all the community and debate and interesting little corners that goes with that. If the internet were to basically consist only of Facebook and Google and Gmail and other big websites… what would be the point of that? Blogs would go back to being email circulars and I’m sorry but I don’t think I’m arrogant enough to spam peoples’ inboxes daily with my vague, half-formed thoughts and wonderings, and I don’t suppose many people are, and further more, I check blogs at my own pace and time and if they were just disappearing into my inbox I wouldn’t bother reading at all, probably. Webcomics would just disappear – Jeph from QC and Randall Monroe from XKCD may be able to earn a living from XKCD and Questionable Content but that’s because currently, running a site isn’t that expensive in the scheme of things. They won’t have the economic clout to guarantee service of a reasonable speed for users to view their comics, and that’ll be that, won’t it?

Or perhaps I’m missing the point. How worried should we be?

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Filed under Blogging, Internet, World

Twitterblogging III

Two people for whom I have more respect than I know how to put into words (really, I don’t) are getting married. In some ways I barely know either of them but, well, we follow one another’s fortunes and misfortunes and I can honestly say that their news has made me a very happy woman.

Now I’m going to go and swim in a millpond. A very good day, I think.

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Filed under Beginnings, Blogging, Family, Friendship, Happenings, Life, Relationships, Religion, Society, Thoughts

Twitterblogging II

Barbecue, postcards, sunshine, friends. Trying to work out how A came to be, having got to know his family a little better. Still stumped on some aspects of that one…but then I met his friends. Depends to what extent ones’ friends can be considered to be a formative influence, I suppose. Am now inconveniently re-addicted to nutella. Then work – chaotic but good fun and almost as steep a learning curve as my first shift. Next shift is Thursday so I hope and assume that this will give me less time to forget everything I know. Now. Bed.

There’s a fly stuck in my room.

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Filed under Blogging, Drink, Friendship, Happenings, Life

Today…

…I swam in a river, went to a spectacular pub I was not old enough to appreciate when I was there last, watched the football, did some useful work, and fell asleep unobtrusively in corners. The Budget featured lots in the news and I’m still making up my mind about what I think about it. Reactionary leftie self objects, sensible middle-of-road self approves cautiously, Tory incubus is grinning in a dark corner somewhere. I need to know more, first.

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So This Is Where We Are

Home now – building works. A three-storey tent (C and I both independently coined this description so it must be true). A loo in the attic, cold tap in the kitchen three floors below, brick dust everywhere, shoes on all the time, cats traumatised, tempers fraying, and a vanful – all my wordly goods – on the front room floor, no route to the piano even, until they’ve put my new skylight in and me and my room are left in relative peace.

Shadowing researchers round the university. Labs, day old mice pups, killed quickly though I won’t tell you how in case it makes you squirm. Microscopes, centrifuges, familiar technology, techniques (Western blotting, cell culturing) heard about and now to be seen and learned, Nanotechnology, collaborations across all kinds of fields of expertise, building condemned though to my eyes stunning. Showers (and thank goodness – options at home = washing-up bowl, kettle, what a performance) in the basement, splashy, motion-sensitive timer-switch controlled and a little chilly but heaven as far as I’m concerned), day flashed past. Sister, tears, tension, fear, homecoming, guilt; I never tell her how proud I am of her, how I tell all my friends about all the things she does, how much I love her – but I never say these things to her, it’s not my way, I suppose.

American quilts, trains, buses, food, drink, pubs and friends and plans and hopes and sunshine which I am rarely able to go out in. New year, I feel, every summer, not winter – I mean, here it all is, being new.

I’m mainly just glad to have clean hair.

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Filed under Beginnings, Blogging, Endings, Family, Happenings, Internet, Life, Relationships, Society, Thoughts, Work

Geeks & Nerds

So XKCD’s current strip is on the difference between Geeks and Nerds. According to XKCD you’re a geek if you’re specifically into something – so you can be a music geek, a baseball geek, a maths geek, etc.; nerds are ‘(often awkward) science, math or computer geeks’.

I don’t agree. I think you’re a nerd if your interest in one specific thing (preferably something nerdy, but then everything at an obsessive level is nerdy, perhaps?) is verging on the all-consuming; you’re a geek if, well, it’s hard to explain, but I think it’s about being intelligent and interested in a number of things to a level which surpasses decent small-talk with your grandmother – you know, she’d never understand whatever you told her about your degree or your new computer or the films you like watching. Your degree subject only counts if you talk about it a lot when you’re not talking about actual work you’re doing or have to get done. So A is a geek because he’s always telling me to read this or read that or about some philosophical thing he’s studying and he’s obviously mainly interested in those things; my housemates, two of whom study politics, never talk about that when they’re not ‘on the job’ and only talk about drunken gossip and so on.

Perhaps it’s about being comfortable with your intelligence and intellectual curiosity and thinking that getting engaged with something interesting and out of the ordinary and not just about what’s for tea or who’s sleeping with whom* is an acceptable way of having a conversation. I think it is. But then, I’m a geek.

What do you think? Also, are you automatically a geek if you keep a blog?

*Not that these things aren’t fascinating. I love gossip, clothes, scandal, stupid humour and what’s-in-the-fridge as much as the next person. But then, you knew that.

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Filed under Blogging, Books, Happenings, Internet, Life, Relationships, Society, Thoughts, University

Procrastinating Rather Than Sleeping? Fail.

Oh post-scheduler, you save my life once again.

Anyway. Procrastinating found me this quiz. It shows you the percentage of votes one way or the other for each individual question rather than giving you a breakdown at the end, so look out.

Basically I am apparently abnormally naked. There is nothing I will not do, or have not done, whilst naked – with the exception of cooking. Somehow that seems to me just a bit weird. Also I’m convinced I would scald my stomach or get hot fat spat at me or something, somehow. So logistically it’s stupid and it would feel very odd. But skinny dipping, sunbathing, night swimming, sleeping, check check check check. I enjoy and will happily do all of those things, at least, on my own or in the presence of similarly-minded friends. I will get naked in the pool changing rooms, which are communal, without a qualm, though there are cubicles if you want them but the floor is wetter in there because they’re nearer the showers and they’re dark and I’m too blind when I take off my glasses.

Don’t go thinking I wander round naked all the time. I don’t. I just don’t have a problem with it.

Apparently I will happily talk about me being naked on my blog. Oops. Whilst I’m at it, I’ll also tell you about my new stockings…

(jokes. I have no stockings. I have no idea how to wear them without looking like a goth, or one of those people who thinks vintage clothing is for actively recreating a sort of 1950s-fakery-arcadia, or a prostitute or something and I am none of those things. It’s a shame because I think they’re kind of sexy but they’re probably a nightmare to take off in a seductive (or at least not actively off-putting) fashion especially if like me you’re about as dexterous as a mentally challenged goat).

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Filed under Art, Beginnings, Blogging, Happenings, Internet, Life, Relationships, Sex, Society, Thoughts, World

Second Life

I always kind of assumed that when I was a bit older or something I’d get bored of large swathes of the internet. That I’d use Facebook and email to stay in touch with people but other than that, well, nothing. That I’d stop writing a blog, I’d stop going on MSN and talking to people there, I’d stop reading webcomics or other peoples’ blogs.

I still kind of believe that. There’s a bit of me that thinks there’s something a bit weird about, say, married people who blog – about baby’s first word or that funny thing that happened on the way to the supermarket or their in-laws hilariously outdated and dodgy political views or whatever – that I blog because I’m single, I spend a lot of my time on my own working in my own little bubble and so this is an easy and itneresting way of reaching out to the rest of hte world without having to leave my desk. Even now part of me thinks this is a little bit sad, somehow. That I ought to be outside at the pub or drinking coffee with friends – except that I spend a significant chunk of my time doing those things already, it’s not as if I’m lonely, so that can’t be why I do this. It’s not as if I don’t have massively interesting and informed debates with my friends over coffee and tea and ale in the real world, either, it’s not as if I haven’t subjected them all, severally, to the rantwhinebitchwhingebrainsplurge on the subject of my education, miseducation, or otherwise, just for a recent example, more than once.

I do also assume that somehow once I am ‘an adult’ I will somehow no longer have the time for this virtual world. But it’s not as if I’m not incredibly busy at the moment, either, and it’s not as if keeping a blog requires huge amounts of time or thought – words just flow from brain to fingers and I write them, it’s as simple as that, it’s only irritating that I type so fast that my hands get slightly out of sync and the letters get in the wrong order sometimes (I hope you’ve all got as used to ‘becuase’ as I have, because it’s there to stay and I’m sorry), or my other favourite, my brain goes completely doo-lally and we go in for phonetic typing such that ‘in sync’ becomes ‘in sink’ and ‘there’ ‘their’ and ‘they’re’ are simply confused because they all sound the same so surely (thanks, Brain) it doesn’t matter.

So. I’m unlikely to run out of the time to have a blog. And you all know me, I’m unlikely to run out of things to say. And, not to boast, I’m not likely to run out of readers. And it’s my primary means of contact with some friends and although those friendships (if that’s what you can yet call them) are gradually moving into emails and even, tentatively, real life, we don’t always have the time for five paragraphs of intense social commentary in an email when you can write a comment just to say, hello, hope you’re OK. So what is going to happen? When will this stop? Does it stop?

And what about Skype and MSN? It’s on in the background, I’m usually on ‘appear offline’, I haven’t had an online conversation with anyone for weeks, actually, a few people have attempted to catch me, I’ve tried to say hello to one or two people in the rare moments that I have the time and am not doing something more useful or more relaxing, but, ships in the night. But sometimes it is useful. When you don’t want to phone because it’s expensive or late at night or you’re also trying to hang up your laundry or whatever. When you just want to quickly organise something with a group of people. When you want to stay in touch with home friends and you’re at uni – I think that’s its main use for me. And, shamefully, those conversations you start having which are very lighthearted and backgroundy and you’re working at the same time but then gradually you get all deep and serious and late night and emotions come crawling out of the woodwork and actually those are conversations that perhaps you’d never dare have face to face because that’s just scary and will I be any better at talking about my feelings when I really am a grown-up? I doubt it. Not, actually, that I’m all that bad at it, when it comes to it. Bite the bullet, say what you’re really thinking, no-one needs a screen to hide behind except that equally you’ve made me blush, or I really don’t want you to see/hear me crying and thank god if we’re on MSN I can be far more matter-of-fact and nonchalant. Don’t tell me that you don’t sometimes prefer it like that.

I think my dad feels that it’s kind of sad that we all still use these forms of communication that we were desperately attached to when we were fifteen. But I think our use of them has evolved. Who still has song lyrics for their MSN name, or uses some ridiculously unreadable font and a billion animated emoticons? I can’t imagine still having conversations over the internet in real time when I’m fifty. But equally, it’s somehow quite useful, and I can’t see why or when it’s going to stop. I think the internet has changed our lives and the course of our lives to come more than we can quite imagine.

But I really, really don’t want to be a fifty-year-old blogger with an MSN account and a webcam. I want to check emails once a day, and otherwise, read a book, phone a friend, watch telly. Possibly have facebook. Check the news online sometimes from work during a tea break. That’s enough internet. No more internet. But really, what would be wrong with occasionally skypeing my sister, say, or putting pictures up on this blog of the kitchen units I just built, (YES I will build them myself, I got all inspired by my neighbour’s handbuilt, home-made kitchen and now I want to try) or writing about my thoughts on the new Green PM or the end of oil or whatever.

Oh, future, you weird and scary thing.

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Filed under Blogging, Endings, Friendship, Happenings, Internet, Introspection, Life, Relationships, Society, Thoughts, Work, World